State sells university system chancellor's home

ATLANTA - Georgia's university system is now officially out of the business of furnishing expensive homes to its top administrator, system officials announced Tuesday.

The state sold a mansion in the affluent Buckhead area of Atlanta for $2 million last month, Linda Daniels, the university system's Vice Chancellor for Facilities, announced to members of a Board of Regents committee.

The home was occupied by former Chancellor Thomas Meredith from 2002 until he left the position a year ago. The board gave incoming Chancellor Erroll Davis a housing allowance of $72,000 a year when he joined the system last December.

"The board decided they didn't want to be in the housing business,'' said John Millsaps, a spokesman for the university system. "That's the direction we've been going. There's only a few campuses where the (college) president has a home.''

The university system has provided a home for chancellors off and on for about 40 years. The first chancellery, which was located in a somewhat less exclusive Atlanta neighborhood, was sold in 1995.

For a few years after that, former Chancellor Stephen Portch lived in his own home in Newnan, receiving a housing allowance from the Board of Regents.

But when Meredith was hired, board members decided that chancellors should be provided homes they could use to entertain guests.

At first, the system's private nonprofit foundation picked up the tab. But when the foundation couldn't keep up with the hefty mortgage payments, the state stepped in and bought the property in 2003 for nearly $1.9 million.

The move caused controversy, particularly at a time when Gov. Sonny Perdue and the General Assembly were cutting higher education budgets to help offset the effects of sluggish tax collections brought on by an economic downturn, and when it came to light that tax money also was paying for fancy rugs and other furnishings.

During the transition from Meredith to Davis last fall, board members took the opportunity to put the home on West Paces Ferry Road - the same street where the Governor's Mansion is located - up for sale. It was listed for $2.4 million, said Peter Hickey, assistant vice chancellor for facilities.

The price for the 6,000-square-foot Tudor-style home was lowered once to $2.2 million before the state agreed to the final selling price of $2 million, Hickey said.