Here's what's happening

Georgia State’s Recreation Center is paid off, leaving extra money to be used

Students wait outside an overcrowded Panther Express bus. Photo by Dylan Jones | The Signal

As Georgia State’s spring semester begins to wind down, plans for next year are already in the making. One plan, worth over one million dollars, is the reallocation of some student fees.

Georgia State’s Atlanta campus is home to roughly 32,464 students. Previously, each student paid $53 towards the recreation center building through required student fees. However, as the building is finished and requires no further funding, the bond used to pay for the building will soon be “sunsetted,” gearing the money towards other uses.

According to SGA Academic Affairs chair Jessica Siemer, the money will still be pulled from student fees, as there’s still many places the amount could contribute towards.

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“They could go ahead and say, ‘We’re going to give back this money and reduce student fees,’ but there were a lot of different departments around campus that were running out of deficit, so they’re putting it to other places,” Siemer said.

When multiplied by each student on the Downtown campus, the total amount to be redistributed is about $1,720,592. With such a large sum of money to spread around, final plans for what to do with it are in the works.

Originally, Georgia State’s Student Fee Committee planned on splitting the money between the library, the recreation department (separate from the funding of the building itself), and the health center.

Siemer said the library is planning on using the financial support to kick-start changes to the building, along with possibly change the ground floor entrance after Kell Hall’s demolition.

Siemer also said that the operations within the Recreation Center function on different funding from the building itself and have been running on less than the needed amount. The funding is expected to help keep the center going.

The health center, which supports students’ physical and mental well-being, was approved to use the extra funding to address future needs.

Chris Connelly, Georgia State’s Campus Services Director of Marketing and Operations, said the transportation department is still on hold to receive parts of the money, as they had to modify their request.

“[The] Board of Regents (BOR) requested modifications to the [Georgia State] request so as to conform with the Board of Regents staff guidelines stating the current reserve in the student health fee balance was too high. It had to be reduced before an additional allocation is a consideration,” he said.

Because all departments are required to follow mandated directives, this left part of the money to be taken up by another department: Transportation Services.

The transportation department, which was originally excluded from receiving extra funding due to successful operation on the current budget, will be granted $7 from each student’s fees. This gives the department an extra $227,248 to use.

“To comply with the directive, the transportation team was asked by the [Georgia State] administration if the funds could be used to assist with Panther Express routes in addressing new information received regarding the Courtland Street bridge project for fall semester 2018,” Connelly said.

The department wasn’t in need of need extra money after the Green and Blue lots were bought by the Georgia State Foundation and leased for a lower price. However, Connelly said the department was able to come up with a way to use the funding in a productive manner.

With the funding, Connelly said the department is planning on addressing the issues caused by traffic congestion due to the Gilmer Street demolition. The city of Atlanta has granted Panther Express buses the ability to use Gilmer Street starting on May 7.

“Other metro buses will have to travel around Gilmer. This means to preserve service levels, additional buses for the Blue Route will be needed due to traffic congestion. An additional bus may be required on the Green Route due to congestion on Piedmont Ave caused by routing all the Atlanta and Regional Metro buses along the corridor,” Connelly said.

Siemer and Connelly said that the department is also planning on putting the extra funding into a reserve.

“They’re operating fine on the budget that they have, but since we are going to get a lot of different construction around campus in the next few years, there will be even more. They’re tucking it away so, if they need to put another bus on the route or they need any other expenses paid, they can do it,” Siemer said.

The plan is expected to kick off on July 1 and continue for an entire fiscal year, including one summer, fall, and spring semester. After the three semesters, the money is expected to be reallocated again to different departments.

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