UT-Knoxville says no to Haslam outsourcing option
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The University of Tennessee campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Martin are opting out of Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature effort to privatize facilities management services.
The Haslam administration awarded Chicago-based company real estate giant Jones Lang LaSalle a statewide contract to pitch its services to individual higher education institutions, but left it up to each campus to decide whether to participate.
UT-Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport said in a release Tuesday that the decision is due to the university’s extensive financial analyses, the complexity of the work done on the research-intensive campus and its commitment to East Tennessee’s economy and its workforce.
Davenport wrote that the university ranks among the lowest in the Southeastern Conference in administrative and maintenance costs per square foot, and five-year projections indicate $3.3 million more in savings.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that the Health Science Center in Memphis is the only UT campus to opt in, but that it only intends to have the company take over mechanical services that it already outsources through a consortium with the University of Memphis and Southwest Tennessee Community College.
UT-Chattanooga Chancellor Steve Angle said the company “made a sincere presentation and their ongoing conversations with us were specific and thorough. Our decision is to not participate based on the higher cost of services.”
“Our data indicates our campus operates effectively and efficiently,” he said.
Haslam has aggressively pushed government building-management privatization, but the proposal has fallen flat among many lawmakers.
“Our goal from the beginning has been to equip our higher education institutions with a tool they can use to better manage increasing budgetary needs, both now and into the future,” Haslam said in a statement.
“We continue to support this concept and look forward to seeing how these universities work to keep tuition and other fees low for our students and families,” he said.
The governor’s annual budget hearings with state agencies are scheduled for next week, with higher education officials to present their spending plans on Tuesday.
Finance Commissioner Larry Martin appeared to suggest that the University of Tennessee decisions may not be final, saying the administration plans to review the analyses on which the universities leaders drew their conclusions.
“Our initial review has raised several questions that we look forward to discussing with the appropriate people,” he said.
Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, http://www.timesfreepress.com