In testimony before the Georgia House of Representatives Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee on Jan. 24, UGA President Michael F. Adams told legislators that the university’s priorities were improved salaries for faculty and staff; obtaining funding for the expansion of the College of Pharmacy, the maintenance of campus facilities; relief from health insurance and utility cost increases; and state support for the proposal to convert the Navy School property into a health sciences campus.
Salaries at UGA have slipped in recent years relative to institutions in the Southeastern Conference, the Southern Regional Education Board and the regents-established national peer list, Adams said. For example, in 2000, faculty salaries at UGA ranked sixth in that regents peer group, but by 2006 had fallen to 12th.
“We compete in a national and international labor market,” he said. “If we want to continue to offer the best possible educational experience for the best of Georgia’s young people, we must continue to put the best faculty in front of them in the best possible learning environment.”
While the rankings contain data about faculty salaries alone, Adams made it clear that staff salaries are an equally pressing issue.
The president expressed appreciation to the governor for including $37 million for the expansion of the pharmacy college in his 2007 fiscal year budget. That expansion would allow an additional 50-75 pharmacy students to enroll each year, bringing the total class size to 200. There is a serious deficiency in the number of pharmacists trained in Georgia and the number of pharmacists serving rural communities, Adams told the committee, and the land-grant university has a responsibility to meet that need.
The other major-facilities need is major repair and renovation, or MRR, funding. The UGA campus is home to more than half the state’s century-old or older buildings, many of which need significant repairs to continue to serve the faculty and students. There is a $300 million backlog of deferred maintenance for electrical system repairs, HVAC upgrades, plumbing systems and fire protection.
Two other operational matters are straining the UGA budget, he said—health insurance and utility costs. The 75 percent share of employee and retiree premiums that the university pays has risen by $10.7 million—or 23 percent—since fiscal year 2004, leaving a shortfall in the UGA budget of $5 million. The same is true in utility costs, where there is a $6.7 million shortfall.
Finally, he asked legislators for support of the UGA proposal for the Navy School property in Athens. Citing the opportunities for public-private partnerships among UGA, the Medical College of Georgia, Athens Technical College and the two area hospitals, Adams touted the economic impact benefits of a UGA health sciences campus on the 58-acre site.
“Coupled with the newly established College of Public Health and the commitment to expanding medical research, the acquisition of the Navy School property would be a terrific boon for the city of Athens, the University of Georgia and the state of Georgia,” he said. “The economic development potential of a full health science and health research campus in Athens has almost unlimited reach.”