The News Service of Florida
April 5, 2017
University and state college foundations would be prohibited from using public funds to pay for their employees and would have to disclose most of their records, under a bill approved Wednesday by the House Appropriations Committee.
The bill (PCB APC 17-05) is an outgrowth of a House review that showed state universities were spending $53 million in public funds to support employees in the largely private foundations, which are also known as direct-support organizations. The review also showed state colleges were spending $9.9 million in a similar fashion.
House Higher Education Appropriations Chairman Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, said lawmakers “looked hard” at the foundation spending, noting some foundations were using public funds to pay for more than 100 employees to raise money and perform other functions.
“Simply put, this practice is using taxpayer dollars to create permanent wealth for the colleges and universities,” Ahern said.
The bill, which was unanimously approved by the budget panel, would also remove most of the confidentiality provisions the foundations now have over issues like fund-raising strategies, athletic-department financing and real-estate holdings. The foundations would only be able to shield information about their private donors under the bill.
House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, said requiring foundations to make more public disclosures is in line with the House’s philosophy of “transparency” when it comes to public agencies.
“The reality is taxpayers have the right to know,” Trujillo said. “Everybody should be transparent.”
Trujillo said university and college foundations should be more forthcoming with their financial information.
“People should be able to review them. People should be able to scrutinize them,” Trujillo said. “People should be able to ask tough questions. That has been our philosophy regarding this issue.”
Nobody testified at the committee hearing, and Trujillo said he has not heard from the universities or state colleges.
The Senate is not considering a similar bill, but the House proposal is likely to become part of the budget negotiations between the two chambers, which have widely divergent higher-education spending plans for the 2017-18 budget year.
The $53 million in university spending on foundation employees included $11.7 million for the University of Florida, $10 million for the University of Central Florida, $9.6 million for the University of South Florida and $7.3 million for Florida State University.
The $9.9 million in state-college spending on foundation personnel included $1.1 million for Broward College, $692,000 for St. Petersburg College, $669,000 for Valencia College and $668,000 for Tallahassee Community College. [READ MORE]