OHIO State law change hailed to save building funds

The state would benefit, too, YSU President David Sweet says.
COLUMBUS -- Higher education officials are praising a proposed change in state law that would let them manage construction contracts and architects.
That could cut time and thousands of dollars from state university building projects, they say.
Under the proposal in the two-year, $1.5 billion state capital outlay bill moving through the Legislature, colleges and universities wouldn't have to consult as much with the state Department of Administrative Services.
Provision approved in house
Last week, the House approved the provision, which provides money for college building projects, and the Senate is due to follow suit soon.
"Our campuses have the facility staff that are capable of handling that on their own," said Jim McCollum, executive director of the Inter-University Council of Ohio. The council is an association of the state's 13 public universities and two free-standing medical colleges.
"Instead of going through a centralized bureaucracy in Columbus, you're able to directly manage the projects on your own campus," McCollum said of the proposal.
Cuts the middleman
"The state benefits, too, because it reduces the burden in Columbus. It also cuts down on time, and that cuts down on costs," David Sweet, president of Youngstown State University, added.
Patricia Myers, a lobbyist for Kent State University, said the strategy cuts out the middlemen and their fees.
In testimony before the House Finance Committee, State Budget Director Tom Johnson said current law requires the administrative services department to administer higher-education building projects with appropriations of more than $4 million.
The department has the authority to grant local administration for higher-education projects with state appropriations of less than $4 million.
"The proposed language change will clearly indicate the authority of higher education institutions to administer their own projects without payment of the local administration fee to the department, regardless of the state appropriation amount," Johnson told the finance committee.
At their discretion
Higher-education institutions could, at their discretion decide, to use state administration services, and pay the fees.
The state charges a graduated fee for administrative services based on the project budget: 2.25 per percent on the first $250,000; 1.5 percent on the $750,000 and 1.25 percent on construction costs over $1 million.
Richard Hickman, a deputy director for the Department of Administrative Services, said the department supports the change and helped to craft the proposal.
"It's streamlining the process and removing bureaucracy that probably is not necessary," Hickman said.
Hickman said the state administrative services department has, in the past, granted authority to some campuses to manage construction projects on their own. "Over the years, they've demonstrated they know how to do these things," Hickman said.

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