We are pleased to provide Brookdale Eagles the story books based on ‘Aladdin.’ So please take home the books today and begin reading. Read to your parents, your guardians, your brothers, your sisters, even your dog or cat,” said Leroy Jones Jr., the 4-H youth development agent for the Midlands Region of the 1890 program.

South Carolina State University’s chief financial officer said the institution is maintaining a solid financial standing and continues to improve.

Gerald Hubbard Smalls gave a finance report to university trustees last month, stating that the university has a 6% debt-to-asset ratio.

“We’re capable of expanding that and moving out and doing some financing if needed on the P3 (public-private partnership) side as we grow. So we have that capability, but we want to hold that in our back pocket to see if we need to do that, or we can bring in private investors. So we’re maintaining a great financial balance sheet right now,” Smalls said.

He also reported that the university’s audit of the radio station WSSB and its federal compliance audit were both completed on time and without any major deficiencies.

Smalls said the university is working on its finance personnel needs, including securing an internal auditor.

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“We feel good about where we are. We feel good about going into the state audit. The staffing looks fantastic. Right now it’s set for that internal audit, and we’re excited about it. Morale is up,” he said.

Smalls said the university’s tuition and fees have brought in $492,000, which is 1.7 percent above budget. Revenue is $1.3 million, or 1.98 percent above budget and budget expenditures are in line, he said.

Total spring 2023 semester charges are 17 percent higher than the spring 2022 semester, while financial aid revenue is up $1.1 million, or 6 percent, from last year during the same time period.

In other financial matters, the board approved the execution of a $1.6 million contract for Queens Village renovation, the advertising of a $4.4 million contract for student center interior renovation work and the advertising and execution of a contract for the $20 million student center expansion (new cafeteria).

“We’re putting into that student center close to $24.4 million over the next two years. All these things are ready. We need your support to help these things move forward,” Smalls said.

President Alexander Conyers said, “In this $20 million expansion of the student center, I’ve asked him to take a good, hard look to see if we can carve out about 3,000 square feet to place the infirmary in there, a brand-new space for students to go to see the nurse and counselors. We will then be able to tear down Brooks (Health Center), perhaps, and have additional parking.”

In other matters, Smalls gave a facilities management update, including the operation of a new fitness center and the implementation of new security measures such as lights at all campus exits.

The board also approved granting an access easement for the leaseholders of the Washington Point subdivision in Elloree for their access to the properties on Camp Daniels Road and the other roads that are on the Camp Daniels property.

Ken Davis, S.C. State’s director of facilities/planning and construction, said the university has negotiated an access road easement agreement with Santee Cooper and subsequently needed the approval from the State Fiscal Accountability Authority. The SFAA, however, needed the board’s approval of the easement before they moved forward with their review of the easement at their May meeting.

Also during the finance presentation, Smalls introduced Brandon Dermody, a lobbyist for the university. He gave an update on the university’s capital budget requests from the state Legislature.

“Columbia has, I think, recognized the need to invest in S.C. State,” Dermody said.

“For our recurring base budget, we had $19,791,221. That was our beginning base budget this year in the Senate,” he said.

Dermody said the replacement of some of the university’s older buildings has also been a top priority, with the state Senate setting aside $44 million out of non-recurring funding for the replacement of Turner Hall, as well as $10 million out of the capital reserve fund. This brings the total figure for the building’s replacement to $54,702,890.

“Our request to the House from my team has been, ‘Hey, you can’t really build half a building.’ Obviously, we need the full funding there, so we will be continuing to push. That’ll be our number one focus as we move into conference committee and look at the second version of the House’s budget,” he said. “We expect to win, but we do expect them not to match that budget number.”

Board Chairman Douglass Gantt wanted to know specifically what the university could stand to get from the state legislature following the president’s initial request of more than $200 million.

“We asked for $225 million and of that $225 million, it was more than just capital projects. In that was baseline, as well. And we’re receiving, as of now, looks like almost $84 million of the $225 million currently,” Conyers said.

Gantt said it’s “incumbent upon all of us as we move forward” to donate to the university.

Also during the presentation, Conyers noted that he has asked Smalls to look into the possibility of obtaining a federal lobbyist. “We’re looking at that and what that’s going to cost. If we got two or three grants a year, it would pay for itself,” he said.

Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow “Good News with Gleaton” on Twitter at @DionneTandD

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