$3.4 million to replace roofs of buildings on campus
Considering consecutive years of cuts to higher education funding, USC students may not have a lot to thank the state of South Carolina for.
But at least the state keeps a roof — or 10 — over their heads.
The General Assembly gave the USC system more than $11 million this year in one-time funding for renovations in a move that Leslie Brunelli, the university’s associate vice president for budget and planning, described in an email as a pleasant surprise.
USC is planning to spend $3.4 million of that budget replacing the roofs to Wardlaw College, Thomas Cooper Library and its annex, the Law Center, 1600 Hampton Street, the Benson Building, the Byrnes Building, McKissick Museum, the Welsh Humanities Center and the Welsh Humanities Classroom Building.
The cost of roof replacements is a small part of the university’s estimated $593 million in needed renovations built up over years of neglect for campus buildings, and officials say failure to keep the tops of buildings sealed would lead to more costs resulting from flooding and other environmental damage.
Facilities Director Tom Quasney wrote in an email that maintaining the sealed building “envelope” is his department’s second priority behind safety concerns, and the roofs have exceeded their life expectancy. He said 10 roofs in one year wasn’t extraordinary.
“It’s a little more than average, but we have a little catching up to do,” Quasney said.
Quasney said that since the roughly 130 research and academic buildings on campus have roofs that needed replacing every 20 years, the university must replace six to seven roofs every year to keep up.
“We are very grateful that our state allocated all of these funds to us this year exclusively for deferred maintenance and that our university leadership is expending those funds on one of our top priorities,” he said.
Brunelli said the state funding was surprising considering the extra renovation money usually comes from a state budget surplus. The Associated Press reported last week that South Carolina is among 15 states in the nation with a budget surplus, if only a modest one created by less spending and slight increases in tax revenue.
“Unfortunately, our recent experience is that the state was running a deficit at the end of the fiscal year and there have been no funds available,” Brunelli said.
The last time the state gave USC money for renovations was in fiscal year 2006, when the university received $1.4 million for three specific deferred maintenance projects. Former Gov.
Mark Sanford vetoed the bill, but it was overridden. This year, the state gave USC discretion in where it spent the money, as long as it was on renovations rather than new building projects.
Brunelli said the state hasn’t issued Capital Improvement Bonds that could be used on new building projects in more than a decade.