Georgia Gwinnett College funding may be restored

LAWRENCEVILLE — Legislators may have plugged a budgetary hole for Georgia Gwinnett College. But no one at the Lawrenceville campus is ready to breath a sigh of relief.

Senators will vote Friday on a version of the Fiscal Year 2013 supplemental budget restoring $2.7 million in funding to the college, which had been cut in an earlier version from the governor. But if it passes, the House must agree before the crisis is averted.

“We have a lot of people to thank,” said Merri Brantley, the college’s director of external affairs who has spent the legislative session at the Capitol.

Because the young college is rapidly growing, leaders have relied on special initiative funding each year, since funding for the university system is based on two-year-old enrollment figures. Georgia Gwinnett has nearly doubled its enrollment in that time to a current 9,400 students.

With only a few months left in the fiscal year, the cut in the special initiative funding would force the college to impose up to eight furlough days with other options including dropping a campus security contract.

Brantley said the restoration of the funding in the Senate came at the urging of David Shafer, a Duluth senator who serves as the body’s president pro tem, as well as Buford Sen. Renee Unterman.

“I am pleased to get the money back in. We just have to wait and see what sticks,” Unterman said, adding that all state agencies are having to cut but the college shouldn’t have to deal with such a drastic cut in such a short time frame. “That is not the message in Gwinnett County we want to send. We want stability.”

Recently, College President Dan Kaufman and Brantley met with House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones and Appropriations Chairman Terry England, who represents Barrow County, to try to get support in that body.

“Nobody promises anything,” she said. “But I think they’ll do what they can to help us out.”

Both bodies must “agree” to the budget. That could mean a conference committee will hash out the differences in the proposals.

“I don’t know how far apart they are on things,” Brantley said. “It could take a few hours; it could take a few days.”