USF disputes JD Alexander’s math

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Lyndsay Peterson offers a closer look at the reality of proposed budget cuts to USF:

  • The spare cash attributed to Tampa’s main campus for USF represents the total for all the campuses in the USF system — also including St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland.

But the Tampa campus can’t get its hands on reserves from the other campuses; state law gives each of them control of their own budgets. And reserves from the Lakeland campus, USF Polytechnic, would disappear under another measure Alexander is pushing that would close the campus to create a new university in Polk.

The USF Tampa reserves are projected to be about $76.5 million by June, the end of the 2011-12 year. Yet its share of the state university cuts is more than that, at $79 million.

  • Whatever the precise figure, Alexander calls it “unobligated cash.”

USF spokesman Michael Hoad calls that view a “myth.”

“Carry forward” money, which is what USF calls its reserve fund, “is simply money held over a fiscal year — it is still used to pay for instruction, summer school, academic programs and other obligations and bills,” Hoad wrote in an email.

“We need money at end of one year to pay salaries for the next year.”

There is nothing unobligated about it, he said. Without this money, there will be layoffs, Hoad said, possibly as soon as April as the university reorganizes its course offerings for the summer.

Also, it will leave the university with nothing in reserve, “no dollars for the future,” said USF Chief Operating Officer John Long. That violates state law requiring universities to keep a reserve fund of at least 5 percent.

Some of the other universities are in the same predicament. The Senate’s proposed cut to Florida International University, $55 million, would gobble up its $41 million projected reserves.

  • The burden other universities would face under the plan shows USF is not being singled out, said Sen. Evelyn Lynn, an Ormond Beach Republican who chairs the Senate higher education budget committee.

“The funding issue is hitting all the universities across the board.”

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.