Gov. Rick Perry has ordered the regents of Texas Southern University to develop a plan for fixing the school’s financial problems or resign.
Perry recently met with the regents and set a 30- to 45-day deadline for a plan that would begin this year to tackle the historically Black university’s multimillion-dollar budget woes.
“It can’t be the same old, same old,” Perry spokesman Robert Black said. “They’re going to have to make the hard decisions to correct these issues.”
A recent report by TSU’s interim chief financial officer outlined overspending, missing purchase orders and poor financial projections at the school.
The report highlighted flooded basements in several buildings and said the athletic program was $2 million over budget this year.
“I think the governor was surprised by the breadth and depth of — once you peel back the onion — how much trouble this institution is in,” Black said.
The school has requested an emergency appropriation of about $25 million, much of which would go to repairing worn-out buildings.
The regents fired former President Priscilla Slade in June after an investigation found that she spent more than $260,000 in school money on costs related to her own home. She faces trial on two charges of criminally misusing university money for her private benefit. Three other ex-TSU employees also face charges related to the improper use of school funds.
“We agree with the governor that systemic problems at TSU must be fixed,” Regent Earnest Gibson III said. “We are here for the benefit of the students.”
Regent Bill King said the school should be able to make financial progress with improved accounting and monitoring cost overruns, but it will still have a budget gap.
“In the short term, we’re going to need more funding from the Legislature,” King said.
Perry also plans to form a blue-ribbon panel to develop a long-term plan for the university, including defining its academic mission, according to the governor’s office.
The governor’s office said it hopes to avoid the potential option of merging TSU with another university. The first option would be for the school to emerge as a strong, independent institution.
“I don’t think anyone, including the governor, wants to see anything but option No. 1 as our fate,” Regent Belinda Griffin said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, and we’ve got to do it in a short amount of time.”
State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said he hopes Perry’s action will help the school. He said Texas’ two historically Black universities have been underfunded since they were founded.
“I’m glad he’s stepping up to the plate,” he said. “Let’s hope he’s correcting that historical wrong.”
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