ATLANTA – Staff in the University System of Georgia gained greater authority over real-estate transactions Wednesday when the Board of Regents approved higher spending limits.

The size of transactions requiring board approval is now $1 million, a fourfold increase over the previous threshold of $250,000. The maximum number of acres the staff can decide on its own rose fivefold from 1 acre to 5. Timber sales no long need board approval unless it is land managed by the University of Georgia’s forestry school, and the board would only learn of them “periodically.”

Another change ends the requirement to get three, independent appraisals when buying or selling property.

“This flexibility is particularly appropriate for smaller acquisitions or dispositions,” notes the summary of the changes supplied to the board.

The staff presented its proposed changes to the board at the November meeting but received no questions or revision requests from the gubernatorial appointees on the board. Wednesday’s vote by the Real Estate and Facilities Committee was unanimous and without discussion.

The new policy empowers the chancellor or the system’s chief facilities officer, a vice chancellor, in more situations than before.

Board members said they weren’t concerned about giving up some of their control, noting that the system’s budget is now $7 billion.

“Two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars was probably a lot more money when the policy was originally adopted than it is today,” said Regent Larry Walker, a former chairman of the committee. “I don’t see any major concern about this.”

As it was, the committee had two, multi-million-dollar projects on its agenda this month, including approval of a $42 million classroom building for the UGA’s business college. It also had five projects for approval that fell below the new threshold requiring board OK, such as the receipt of two streets from the city of Augusta and the purchase of an acre of land for Kennesaw State University for $875,000.

By no longer requiring board say-so, the transactions will also not be part of the monthly agenda which alerts the media and members of the public to changes in campus property.

Board Chairman Kessel Stelling declined to comment specifically on the changed real-estate policy, but he said that overall has faith in the University System staff.

“There is a great deal of oversight, and the board’s confident that through our committee process we exercise the appropriate degree of oversight,” he said. “We need our staff to make recommendations to us.”

Follow Walter Jones on Twitter @MorrisNews and Facebook or contact him at walter.jones@morris.com.

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