COOKEVILLE – Tennessee Tech University will receive millions of dollars for a new laboratory science building in Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed 2016-17 budget, a spending plan that, for the Upper Cumberland, also allocates funds for two new visitors centers at Cummins Falls and Fall Creek Falls state parks.
In all, Haslam’s proposal, unveiled Monday night during his 2016 State of the State address, totaled $34.8 billion and includes no tax increase.
Locally, the budget means $85.5 million in state and other funds for a new laboratory science building at Tech. The facility would be located north of the Capitol Quad in space currently utilized as a parking lot. It’s anticipated the building will incorporate the university’s chemistry program as well as some related biology and water center elements in an approximately 150,000 square feet.
Other budget wins for the UC include:
- $2.95 million for a new visitor center at Cummins Falls State Park in Jackson County. Funds will cover the center’s construction. Cummins Falls was dedicated as Tennessee’s 54th state park in May 2012; its main attraction is a 75-foot-high waterfall.
- $3 million for a visitor center at Fall Creek Falls State Park in Bledsoe and Van Buren County. Funds are provided for the construction of a new visitor center, which will be located in the Village Green area of the state park.
- $2.2 million for sewage treatment plant upgrades at Edgar Evins State Park in DeKalb County. Funds would cover replacement of waste treatment systems and all related work.
- $200,000 for a re-roof and facility update at the Livingston Readiness Center in Overton County. Funds are provided for roof replacement, exterior repairs, remediation of interior water damage, exterior door repairs, and all related work.
- $750,000 for roof repairs at the Cookeville Higher Education Campus in Putnam County. Funds are provided for roof assessments, repairs, replacement and all related work.
Tennessee Tech is also set to receive two separate appropriations – $5.34 million and $1.8 million, respectively – for building upgrades and repairs. The first will fund updates to building systems and spaces in accordance with the school’s master plan and include all necessary abatement of asbestos materials. The latter allotment will provide for exterior repairs, masonry repairs, window replacement, waterproofing and all related work at multiple facilities.
TTU officials say construction on the new laboratory science building will likely begin in December 2017. Work is expected to be complete in January 2019, with a fall 2019 move-in date.
In his speech Monday, Haslam highlighted the collaborative effort across state government to grow Tennessee’s economy, reduce ongoing costs, provide high quality service to taxpayers and maintain fiscal discipline that has positioned Tennessee to invest in its priorities.
“The reality is that the state of our state is one of unique opportunity, an opportunity that must not go to waste,” Haslam said. “This opportunity is a result of a strengthening economy combined with the hard work and discipline of our departments and the conservative fiscal strategy employed by the General Assembly, our constitutional officers and this administration.
“By managing wisely and investing strategically, we’re making tax dollars work harder for Tennesseans. This is what we do.”
The governor’s fiscal year 2016-2017 budget also proposes $261 million in new dollars for Tennessee public education, including $104.6 million for teacher salaries.
The governor’s proposal puts $100 million into the state’s rainy day fund, bringing it to an estimated $668 million on June 30, 2017; $60 million for salary increases for state employees; and another $36 million for market rate adjustments for state employees making less than $50,000 annually.
Haslam proposed significant investments in higher education and the Drive to 55 initiative, the state’s effort to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary credential to 55 percent by 2025, including:
- $50 million for the Complete College funding formula for higher education;
- $20 million for the Drive to 55 Capacity Fund to help community and technical colleges meet the growing demand for degrees and certificates; and
- $10 million for the Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP) helping communities align degree and course offerings with the needs of the local workforce.
Other notable budget investments are:
- $130 million from the general fund to repay the highway fund;
- $10 million for the Department of Economic and Community Development’s Rural Development Initiative; and
- $1.27 million to increase the number of drug recovery courts from 41 to 50 and for two additional veterans courts.
The complete text of the governor’s speech, archived video and budget documents are available at http://tn.gov/governor/topic/state-of-the-state.