BATON ROUGE, LA. - The Louisiana House of Representatives voted and approved a budget Thursday May 9 2019, that will allow more stabilized funding for higher education across all of Louisiana public universities.

In a recent LSU press release, the flagship University President F King Alexander said, "We are grateful to the Louisiana House of Representatives for their votes today to stabilize higher education's funding and even manage to make some investments."

Full LSU press release is at the bottom.

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Where stately oaks and broad magnolias shade inspiring halls, there stands our dear old Alma Mater, LSU. 

Unfortunately, surrounding those oaks and magnolias are buildings that are in need of repairs. As simple as it may seem to fix these maintenance issues, LSU can't do so without the help from the state.

Tommy Smith, Associate Vice President of Budget and Planning, and Vice Provost for Finance said, “Traditionally the state would give [LSU] the money to do those type of things but unfortunately, they have not in a long time. So we definitely have some deferred maintenance issues across the campus, as do all of public higher education within the state.”

Deferred maintenance refers to on-campus buildings, both old and new, that require minor to major repairs or renovations. These buildings are placed on a backlog list.

Since current funding isn’t enough to put toward certain repairs, LSU looks to receiving funding.  

Tammy Millican, the Executive Director of Facility and Property oversight said, “We go back to the [deferred maintenance] list which is prioritized by building and by critical need on a scale of 1 to 5, and we look the buildings that need to be addressed most urgently, and we will use funding to address that need.”

However, since LSU is the biggest public university in Louisiana, they have the largest deferred maintenance list.

“Golly, it’s about $700 million dollars that we are short of,” Smith said.

As the campus slowly starts to deteriorate, LSU uses the operating budget to go through and do minor repairs. With that said, LSU does not have a lot of budget flexibility, so many buildings will end up being on the deferred maintenance list for years.

“Engineering shops, also known as the art studio unfortunately has been on the capital outlay list for up to 15-20 years," Millican said.

If there was a big catastrophe on campus, the operating budget could not keep up with repairs alone.

“We would have to go through the state and ask for them to help us get through that unfortunately," Smith said.

Instead of waiting for the states financial help, LSU has the option of charging their students more through fees in order to support renovation costs.

“But we would rather not," Smith said. "We would hope our state would fund us so we would not have to go up on our students.”

“And so we are always looking for unique ways to find funding for new construction or major renovations," Millican said.

LSU sends the state their priority deferred maintenance and capital outlay lists yearly. This shows the state which buildings need replacements, and from there it is in the states hands.

Decisions are made starting with the Board of Regents, to the Governor’s office, and then on to the legislative process, concluding with the State Governor’s approval.

“He has a line item veto that he can go into and veto things that he does not agree with," Smith said. "Of which then the legislative session can come back into session and override his veto. So overall, it is a long process.”

Unfortunately in Louisiana, at this time, there are limited resources. With the way the constitution is currently, there are statutory funds that leave pots of money within the state un-cuttable, except for the Department of Health and Hospitals, and of course, higher education.

But where does that leave LSU?

"In my opinion, there are maybe three options: get some money from fundraising, which typically they do not give money for renovations for old buildings. you could go ask the state for it, and another possibility is you could pass a tuition and fee that would be dedicated for those," Smith said.

Within the states last session, they passed taxes that will enable more stabilization within the budget, so LSU will not be threatened with any potential cuts. 

Louisiana State Representative for District 7 Larry Bagley explained how the appropriations committee looks at the budget.

“We take the whole budget, all the money, and we try to allocate it," Bagley said. "This year i think there is a 10% increase in money for colleges, so we go through each one of those if we can and normally if we decide to increase money we allow the college the latitude to use it how they want to use it."

Although funding has been cut in the past, it will be more stable in upcoming years.

“For higher education we would like to go back up to these, we were funded at $281 million from just state funds in 2008/2009, and now we are $106.4 million," Smith said. "We would love to move back up to that number so we can make some serious investments in faculty, building maintenance and those types of things. but it is going to take priority of the government and legislature to make that happen.”

Unfortunately there is not a simplified answer to why state funding toward LSU has overall been cut down, but roughly speaking, natural disasters have played a major role.

“Economically, well you are aware, we still haven’t gotten back to solid ground," Bagley said. "We are better now than we were as far as money and taxes, but we are still not where we ought to be. i am a huge support of the public education system, as i am a product of that.”

Once funding becomes more available, students and faculty can expect to see historic buildings being renovated while keeping the exterior integrity.

LSU will be notified directly of potential budget changes, but there is no saying how long until LSU will be able to update buildings from the deferred maintenance list.

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Full LSU Press Release:

LSU Thanks Louisiana House of Representatives for Budget Approval

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 9, 2019

BATON ROUGE – Today, the Louisiana House of Representatives voted on the state budget, and higher education saw modest increases. LSU’s leadership expressed their appreciation for this support.

The budget approved by the House is similar to the proposed budget recommended by Gov. John Bel Edwards prior to the legislative session. In both versions, there is stable funding for higher education with small adjustments for cost increases. This is an indication that the Legislature is committed to protecting higher education.

“We are grateful to the Louisiana House of Representatives for their votes today to stabilize higher education’s funding and even manage to make some investments,” said LSU President F. King Alexander. “We’ve been working hard, telling our story and sharing the long-term benefits of higher education.”

The stability in the budget is based on last year’s efforts by Gov. Edwards and the Legislature to avoid drastic cuts and create a solid base of funding for campuses across the state.

A recent study by the Economics & Policy Research Group at the E. J. Ourso College of Business determined that LSU’s economic impact on Louisiana totals $5.1 billion. This study marked the first time that the impact of all eight LSU campuses – LSU, the LSU AgCenter, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, LSU-Alexandria, LSU-Eunice, LSU-Shreveport, and the LSU Health Sciences Centers in Shreveport and New Orleans – was been illustrated from the state level and on a campus-by-campus basis.

“Higher education provides opportunities for students and families to improve lives,” said Vice President for Agriculture William B. Richardson. “The actions by the House of Representatives and Governor to invest and protect higher education funding will allow the AgCenter the opportunity to invest in research, extension and youth development programs to improve opportunities for Louisiana’s agricultural producers and residents.”

“LSU Alexandria feels it is in a better position than at this time last year,” said LSU of Alexandria Chancellor Guiyou Huang, “LSUA is poised for great success next year, and this is the type of information that gives prospective students and supporters confidence in choosing LSUA.”

“LSU Eunice is very appreciative of the House’s support in what we are doing,” said Interim Chancellor of LSU Eunice Bill Crowe. “We are growing to meet the workforce needs of our area, especially in health fields, and the House’s vote shows that they have confidence in what we are doing.”  

“LSU Shreveport has been growing its enrollment and being entrepreneurial,” said LSU Shreveport Chancellor Larry Clark. “The House’s vote gives us a solid platform on which to build.”

In total, LSU is directly responsible for more than 41,000 jobs, a total of 20,366 of which are directly attributable to the university.

“LSU Health Shreveport is grateful to our representatives for supporting higher ed, which is essential to a strong economy and in attracting top students and faculty to Louisiana,” said Dr. G. E. Ghali, chancellor LSU Health Shreveport.

“We appreciate the continuing support of our Representatives as we work to expand our healthcare workforce and increase access for our patients,” said Dr. Larry Hollier, chancellor of LSU Health New Orleans.

“Pennington Biomedical greatly appreciates the support provided by our legislators and the governor in the operating budget for higher education that was approved by the House today,” said John Kirwan, executive director of LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center. “This support will be used to retain and recruit entrepreneurial scientists who will grow the knowledge economy in Louisiana.”

With more than 45,000 students; 20,000 full time employees; and $3 billion in expenditures and student spending, LSU’s institutions and facilities have a large impact on Louisiana’s economy.

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Contact Ernie Ballard the LSU Media Relations Director at eballa1@lsu.edu for more information.