The state Senate is considering budget language that would create a new blue-ribbon committee which would try to help the struggling S.C. State University find a way to get its finances back in order.
Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, has proposed a five-member committee made up of both current and former college presidents to come up with a plan for S.C. State’s budget in the coming years. S.C. State is currently facing a $13.6 million budget hole, although it was temporarily helped by a $6 million emergency loan from the state Budget & Control Board last week.
Leatherman voted against the loan, saying he felt it was a “Band-aid” that would not fix underlying problems at the school. In an effort to address his own concerns, the powerful chairman is asking other senators to support his oversight plan over recommendations from auditors.
“Does an out-of-state person coming here know more about higher education in South Carolina than these five people?” He asked rhetorically from the Senate floor on Thursday. “I don’t think so.”
Leatherman’s group would work in tandem –or at least parallel with— the outside auditors selected by the school.
He said his committee would include former College of Charleston president Alex Sanders; former Clemson president James Barker, current president of Francis Marion University Fred Carter, current USC president Harris Pastides; and Judge Ernest Finney, who acted as a one-year interim president of SC State in 2002. Leatherman had unsuccessfully pushed for the committee during last week’s board meeting.
But now the team of presidents is being touted as a way to identify the long-term solutions to the school’s financial ills. Neither group will be able to delve into the school’s bookkeeping because, as one senior Senate staffer explained, “It is almost impossible to piece together financial records from the past 30 years.”
The Senate-created committee would submit budget plans to the university, which would have to be approved by S.C. State’s board of trustees.