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Thursday, June 01, 2023

New music building, infrastructure updates: What UF is lobbying for

UF may find out if it can fund a new building for the School of Music when the legislative session concludes on May 3.

The university has lobbyed at the Florida House of Representatives to receive funding since the start of the legislative session on March 5, said Samantha Sexton, UF’s director of government relations.

As a part of lobbying, UF files appropriations project requests, which request funding for university projects. The funding is then approved or denied by the state legislature, Sexton said.

“UF’s government relations offices are responsible for championing the university’s mission and priorities,” she said. “Every investment in UF is an investment in our students and faculty.”

A request for P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School asks for $10 million to build a secondary school facility, Sexton said. The money was requested from the Department of Education.

The school is affiliated with the university’s College of Education and was established in 1934, according to the request record.

This funding will complete phase II, crucial facility needs for grades 6-12, of its master plan, Sexton said. Phase I, which upgraded the elementary school, was finished in 2011.

Phase II will remove 10 outdated buildings, fix roofing issues, remove 62 old air units, resolve plumbing issues, remove 14 temporary buildings and complete other repairs, according to the record.

UF also filed a request to improve campus infrastructure.

UF requested $38.1 million from the State House for utilities and infrastructure improvements for campus, Sexton said. The funding would go toward priority improvements, which are facilities with the most need.

According to the request record, the average UF facility is 36 years old, which the document notes is the oldest average in the state university system.

“This would allow the University of Florida to start to tackle some of our deferred maintenance,” Sexton said.

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The request was first read on March 5. The legislature may fund less than was requested, Sexton said.

UF also requested $500,000 before the start of session to increase the College of Veterinary Medicine class size, Sexton said, but withdrew the request prior to its introduction for more time to plan.

The university is looking for funding to construct a new School of Music building.

UF received $5.9 million in the 2017-2018 fiscal year for renovations for the UF School of Music building, Sexton said. But the university decided it would be more cost efficient to request funding for a new building.

UF then returned the $5.9 million, and the money was reappropriated, she said. This year, UF asked for $13,327,338 for a new building, which includes the $5.9 million and an additional $7.4 million.

“UF decided it would be more fiscally responsible to actually construct a new music building than trying to do very costly repairs,” she said.

Currently, the House has not indicated it is interested in funding the music building but has given UF the $5.9 million, Sexton said.

Christa Verbsky, a 20-year-old UF music composition sophomore, is a euphonium player in the UF Fightin’ Gator Marching Band and the university’s wind symphony She said having a space to practice is a main concern of hers.

Although renovations have been made, she said a new building is much needed.

“It would just be really neat to have a building that was solely designed for the School of Music,” she said.

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