Genshaft Optimistic Ahead of USF's Med School Pitch to Board of Governors

Feb 18, 2015
Originally published on February 18, 2015 5:14 pm

On Thursday, University of South Florida officials will once again ask the Florida Board of Governors to approve their request for $57 million in state funding to build the Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute in downtown Tampa.

Their previous request, presented at their January meeting, was returned after some board members expressed concern about what they felt was the lack of a detailed business plan.

Speaking at Tuesday's ceremony renaming the USF School of Accountancy in honor of former Raymond James executive Lynn Pippenger, USF System President Judy Genshaft expressed optimism, saying they've put together a comprehensive proposal that they've already shared with state officials.

"We have prepared a large set of materials. Every single board member, both the trustees and the Board of Governors, have received these materials," Genshaft said.

At the last meeting, some board members criticized USF, saying they hadn't seen an updated proposal. This time, the university is leaving little to chance.

"We have contacted every single board member to ask if they have any questions about our materials, have anything that we might answer for them," Genshaft added.

See USF's presentation to the Board of Governors here.

At their previous meeting, the Board of Governors freed up $5 million in Morsani project funds approved by state lawmakers last year. That money allowed USF to complete the more comprehensive proposal being discussed Thursday.

"We're feeling very optimistic, but it's always with a caution, because you never know," Genshaft said. "But we feel very prepared."

Of course, this isn't the final step. State lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott will make the final decision on how much money USF gets -- if it gets the money at all. The Florida Legislative session begins March 3.

At the January meeting, the Governors recommended state lawmakers give the final $15.8 million in funding for the Heart Institute, bringing the total pledged to that project to $50.1 million. Combined with the $57 million in funds USF is seeking for the College of Medicine, along with the $5 million the state legislature gave the project in its last session, there would be a shortfall in the neighborhood of $41 million.

According to the plan USF will present to the Board on Thursday, the projected cost of the facility is $153 million, down from previous estimates of $157 million.

The university has received an $18 million donation from Frank and Carol Morsani and is seeking private donations to get the final $23 million. Genshaft has previously said USF is "very, very close" to getting that money from as of yet unidentified sources, but some board members worry about what would happen if USF couldn't raise those funds.

"If that doesn't succeed, we will scale back in the building, so that it does meet the $57 million and doesn't go beyond that," Genshaft told the board in January.

USF wants to ask state lawmakers for $57 million for the medical school: $17 million this year and the rest spread out over the next two years. The medical school is a cornerstone piece of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's proposed $1 billion renovation of the Channelside district.

At the January meeting, Governors recommended the state give the final $12.3 million in funds needed to begin construction of a new building for the USF St. Petersburg Kate Tiedemann College of Business. They also suggested approval of $6 million for a new marine research ship for the Florida Institute of Oceanography, which USF serves as host institute for.