Next for Clayton State–Fayette: A campus, via SPLOST?

Dr. Kevin Demmitt's picture

I knew CSU-Fayette had reached a new level of success this week when I found myself going from classroom to classroom to see if there was space to squeeze in more desks.

In June, I was watching our course enrollments and hoping that we could reach 600 this fall. Today, one week before the start of classes, we stand at 780. We have gone from hoping we have enough students to fill classes to hoping we have enough classes to accommodate our students.

As enjoyable as it is to watch the enrollment grow, the best indicators of success are the stories our students share with us. We hear from people on a daily basis how much they appreciate having local access to higher education.

This past year, a soldier who had been wounded in the war came home to Peachtree City to recuperate. He wanted to further his education while he was home, but travel was not possible in his condition. Fortunately, we were able to get him admitted on short notice and he was able to begin working on his college degree.

This summer, we heard from a student in our Aviation Administration program who was reaping the benefits of completing his college degree. Because he was able to earn his bachelor’s degree, he had been promoted to a new position at Delta.

Every day I meet with young people still in high school who are excited about having the opportunity to take a college class in the morning and go to high school the rest of the day.

And, I am hearing from parents of former dual enrollment students who share how well prepared their children were for college because they were already acclimated to the college classroom.

CSU-Fayette is clearly meeting a need for this community, and I believe that we are just beginning to experience the benefits of having a permanent public university in Fayette County. Not only will we continue to benefit individual students, we also will become a major source of economic development and play a key role in attracting businesses to the county.

Now that we have laid such a solid foundation, the question I am asked most often is – What next?

Although we have recently expanded and added two new classrooms to our facility, we will outgrow our present site down the road. Not only will we need more classroom space, we also will need science labs, additional student services, and the other essentials that are components of a thriving college campus. So, how do we move on to the next level?

I wish that I could just say that next month the university is going to buy a piece of property and build a magnificent university campus. However, that is not how the process works in actuality.

Clayton State is a member of the University System of Georgia. Our status as a public university brings numerous benefits to our students.

For example, students are guaranteed transferability of core general education courses to any other member institution in the university system. As a public university, our tuition is significantly lower than that of private colleges and we are open to students from a wide variety of backgrounds and beliefs. And, being a part of a larger system also brings a degree of creditability for students and their future employers.

With the advantages of being a public institution comes the responsibility of acting in accordance with the policies and objectives of the university system as a whole. Part of that responsibility involves being good stewards of the state’s resources.

Thus, the Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia must approve all building projects to ensure that they meet a need for the citizens of the state of Georgia and are a good use of taxpayer funds. The system does not want to develop a new site that just takes students away from an existing location offering similar programs.

In evaluating an institution’s plans for opening a new site, one of the expectations of the University System is that local communities demonstrate a commitment to the new satellite location.

Commitment includes promoting a university and helping to increase the enrollment, but it also means investing some capital into a new or expanded venture.

There is not a formula as to exactly how much financial support a community needs to provide in order to secure a new university center.

Most University System projects have involved at least the donation of land and some additional in-kind services.

For example, Newton County donated land along I-20 that is now the Newton Campus of Georgia Perimeter College. A decade ago, Coweta County gave $1 million in property to develop the University of West Georgia’s Newnan Center. These initial investments have paved the way for the continuing development of University System of Georgia programs in each location.

Building an expanded CSU-Fayette facility will require some up-front capital investment. Given the current state of the budgets for local governments, the money in the proposed SPLOST that will be designated for the development of a local university may be a way to garner the necessary financial investment.

Although I am conservative when it comes to taxes and the limited role of government, I will be voting for the SPLOST in part because of the funds dedicated to higher education.

As a long-time resident of this county, I believe that investing in the higher education infrastructure is a proper role for government. Advancing higher education leads to better communities and improves the quality of life for its residents.

I understand that it is not only local governments that are strapped for cash right now. Households across the country, including Fayette County, are struggling to make ends meet. It is difficult to think about making long-term investments at such times.

But, I believe that the development of a larger university presence in Fayette County is vital to the long-term economic development of the region and is an invaluable resource in helping individuals achieve their personal goals.

Of course, the initial capital investment to help initiate the building of a new CSU-Fayette facility does not have to come from government. There also is the opportunity for an individual or company to create a legacy in Fayette County by helping to fund a new center.

Being involved with the first stage of developing a Fayette County university has been even more exciting than I had anticipated. It is a pleasure to be a part of an endeavor that is touching people’s lives and helping them achieve their dreams.

I am just as excited about our prospects for the future. Clayton State University has made a significant commitment to the development of our site in Fayette County. CSU-Fayette receives no direct support from the state for leasing and equipping the current facility.

Clayton State University is committed to serving the needs of this community and is backing their words with significant financial support even in these lean economic times. However, getting to the next step will require significant community support from across the county.

I believe we have just begun to scratch the surface of meeting the long-term educational needs for Fayette County. With the adequate support, I envision a thriving university center with state of the art facilities and outstanding programs that meet the needs of individuals and the community at large.

I am optimistic about the future because I know this vision is shared by others, and I believe people will work together to make it a reality.

[Dr. Kevin Demmitt is the assistant vice president of academic outreach for Clayton State University-Fayette.]

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Mike King's picture
Submitted by Mike King on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 9:56am.

Dr Demmitt has indeed laid out a worthy and forward reaching project for both Peachtree City and Fayette County and might even be the deciding factor in the Nov 3 referendum on extending the SPLOST. A donation of city of property would, at least to me, should be the first priority because once situated on THEIR campus they would be much less likely to move. An infusion of money for more room will not bind them here for the longterm, for who's to say that they get a better offer fives mile westward on 54/34?

Where would this property be, might we ask. How about the Tennis Center that for years has proven for years to be a drainage on city resources. After all, one would have to admit that the location would be ideal since the students would only have to cross Planterra Way to access the CCD project that our forward thinking Council has gone to great length to force down our throats via the 3-2 vote. I'm sure that Cannongate could survive monetarily should the city decide on this.

What about those members of the Tennis Center who will have to revert to playing at the sites owned by Cannongate at each of the golf courses, or heaven forbid, be forced to play on a truly public court? Perhaps an enterprising soul will step forward and build a private Tennis complex(are you listening Dar?) without public funds. Surely, among all those tennis buffs, one does exist.

My point here is to ask consideration for denial of the SPLOST extension and force our local government to prioritize and live within their means. We the citizens are forced with that reality, so why not government?

Spear Road Guy's picture
Submitted by Spear Road Guy on Fri, 08/21/2009 - 12:40pm.

You're starting to sound like Obama! Give them this and give them that. We're in a recession for crying out loud!!!

Vote Republican

Submitted by Bonkers on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 1:52pm.

If PTC really is serious about keeping a college here then they will need to dig up over 100 acres to donate!

No self-respecting college or University would limit their expansion to a Tennis Court!

Don't you want them to have a football team, a gymnasium, a pool, a student union?

matt.barnes's picture
Submitted by matt.barnes on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 2:04pm.

For a satellite campus? UGA has satellite campuses all over the state. None of them are a 100 acres.

Submitted by Bonkers on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 3:21pm.

UGA has 615 acres.

If all you ever want to attract is a buildings worth, then go ahead!

Of course as I said it could attract with 100 acres.

Annex some more of Fayette County and offer it.

Submitted by Bonkers on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 3:20pm.

UGA has 615 acres.

If all you ever want to attract is a buildings worth, then go ahead!

Of course as I said it could attract with 100 acres.

Annex some more of Fayette County and offer it.

Don Haddix's picture
Submitted by Don Haddix on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 11:22am.

We have talked on the financial issues affecting the city beginning in 2007 during the election. We share many concerns about what has happened and where things have been heading.

I agree we need to anchor the colleges here. CSU wants to stay in PTC, a second is looking to set up some initial classes and 3rd will probably follow suit.

I won't repeat what I said to matt barnes here, but those are the struggles some of us working on those tasks have been facing.

The Tennis Center won't work. It would require redevelopment and that is far more expensive than new construction. Plus the management plan I pushed is finally in place. It will either get the operating costs to about break even or even profitable. It will not pay off the debt assumed by the majority in 2006.

I agree on living within our means, where you know I have been pushing hard on Budget reforms, which I will continue to do. I am frustrated to see all that wasted money in the past that would have kept us from being where we are today financially.

But with that said my problem is road and path maintenance is under SPLOST. Loosing SPLOST puts them into the General Budget, where we do not even come close to having money to pay for it in this economy.

As you know, I will not back a big tax increase next year unless the citizens are on board with it. PTC does not need another Council that does not listen to them. Nor would such a tax increase be helpful in efforts to recruit good employers.

With that said to just do maintenance only would require a 1.25 mil increase if we do the .244 this year. If no .244 it would be 1.5 mil. As said that would be maintenance only with no merit pay or benefit increases to the employees, just COLA.

Of course just maintenance would infuriate a lot of citizens who want the connections to Cooper Lighting and south plus other areas. Kick all that in and you are looking at at least a 2.25 mil increase.

That is what I am looking at for next year to take up with the citizens if we don't get the SPLOST.

If we do get the SPLOST those things would be done and we would eliminate debt such as the Library, Tennis Center and stop wasting money renting such places as City Hall, a ridiculous thing to have been doing.

Just trying to paint a picture of where it is all setting from my perspective according to what I am hearing from the citizens and how I would deal with it. It is not a pretty picture with great alternatives but I have to play with the hand dealt me.

Don Haddix
PTC Councilman
Post 1

matt.barnes's picture
Submitted by matt.barnes on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 10:17am.

What about the south side of Lake Peachtree? Didn't we just aquire a bunch of land there? I know that isn't enough on its own. But that plus the recently abandoned public works area might work.

Submitted by Bonkers on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 1:54pm.

Boy, I hope you and King don't ever apply as city planners or commission!

You want to build a correspondence school!

Submitted by Emma Bovary on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 11:02am.

This is in essence a residential area--not an appropriate setting for a college campus. At least according to PTC standards. Maybe we could just relocate it to your neighborhood.

matt.barnes's picture
Submitted by matt.barnes on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 11:18am.

Just Brainstorming some ideas of land PTC already owns that isn't being used. I really like the idea of bring this campus to PTC and the idea donating land is much more appealing to me than voting for Splost and handing our local government a blank check.

Don Haddix's picture
Submitted by Don Haddix on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 11:48am.

Just some information to both posters. The land is zoned Open Space, OSC, I believe to be exact, not residential. That allows such as rec and schools.

But it it is a bit more complex than that. Between the Tennis Center and 54 the reason that property is there is for an eventual Secondary Road, as already exists on the north side of 54 by the RAM properties. It is planned to run from the commerical areas, CCD and Shoppes, down to and connecting with Huddleston.

So all that space was never intended to just support Planterra and Cardiff, as some assume. How it will end up is yet to be known.

But at this time let us see how the Canongate deal works out.

For clarity and disclosure, I was not a supporter of the Tennis Center when initially proposed, but now it exists and I am trying to get the best outcome possible.

Don Haddix
PTC Councilman
Post 1

Don Haddix's picture
Submitted by Don Haddix on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 10:54am.

As Mike knows Doug Strubaum, Mark Hollums and I began working to get a college here in 2007. Now DAPC is working on the issue. We have worked with CSU, ACC and two others. CSU is here in Westpark and wanting to stay in PTC. There is an extremely good prospect a second will set up temp facilities and a 3rd a good chance as well.

Peachtree City is a golden location for schools they are finding.

We have property located that would satisfy the demands of the colleges. Even a place for a college complex. But the problem is always money. Colleges want the land donated and even buildings paid for and donated.

The normal amount wanted is a least 5 acres at a single location with reasonable visibility. That of course makes the land more costly.

As well I have talked to some developers about changing plans from residential to educational, tech and medical. One is considering it but most say residential is where the big money is with commercial second, hence why we have the glut of both.

Colleges are fantastic revenue generators via direct sales tax and indirect local economy. They are not revenue generators by property tax since they are tax exempt.

I simply do not see the tax payers approving a referendum to buy land and buildings for a college. Especially in this economy.

It isn't some of us have not been trying. It is simply financing is huge problem, especially in this economy.

Don Haddix
PTC Councilman
Post 1

Submitted by Bonkers on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 1:56pm.

CSU is already out of room in a commercial center!
You don't really think they wil stay if that is all you can have for them?
You, Mayor?

Mike King's picture
Submitted by Mike King on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 11:10am.

The efforts of Mark, Doug, and yourself have certainly not gone unnoticed and each of you should be proud of the accomplisments of getting this far.

I agree with each of the points you make, but would you as mayor allow consideration of transfering the Tennis Center property to such a venture? After all, no property taxes are generated from it now and the revenue from Cannongate, I believe, is $250.00 monthly for now. Further, consider the "upside" for the CCD property with all those "big boxes" that are going to benefit merely by its proximity to an institution of higher learning.

Submitted by Bonkers on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 1:59pm.

We rent the whole Tennis Center for $250.00 a month?

Isn't the building cosy several million along with several more for the land?

Who do we know in Cannongate? They couldn't lose money if they tried to very hard! No major maintenance, no taxes, no nothing.

Don Haddix's picture
Submitted by Don Haddix on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 11:34am.

I believe I answered most of that in a post to you above.

Every alternative for what is best for PTC is always on the table for me.

I don't have my paperwork in front of me but it was $2500 a month to start and then 3% of gross. So to make it they are going to have to pull down a lot per month to cover salaries and all maintenance and utilities other than normal landlord maintenance.

If the contract works out then the Tennis Center remains a dark spot on how we got it and how much money has been wasted, but will be resolved for the future. If not, we act appropriately.

Don Haddix
PTC Councilman
Post 1

matt.barnes's picture
Submitted by matt.barnes on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 11:42am.

Going with Mike's Tennis center idea. Why not move the tennis center to the aquatic center? This way the tennis people stay happy and the city could basically merge the operating costs of the Tennis center and the pool to save money. One staff to run both instead of two staff to run each separately.

Don Haddix's picture
Submitted by Don Haddix on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 11:54am.

It would cost too much in construction. Then add in the high redevelopment costs of the current location. Also, you cannot merge some of the differing expertise required.

Don Haddix
PTC Councilman
Post 1

Mike King's picture
Submitted by Mike King on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 12:01pm.

to suggest "water tennis". That is, of course, if he's done watching the babes on FOX.

matt.barnes's picture
Submitted by matt.barnes on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 12:05pm.

I thought he said he was done with this crap. Something about these blogs being below him.

Submitted by Bonkers on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 2:04pm.

Yes, and it is getting worse with stupidity!

S. Lindsey's picture
Submitted by S. Lindsey on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 2:10pm.

why Bonky did you just make a double entendre

"Any People who expect to be both IGNORANT and FREE, in a state of CIVILIZATION, expects what NEVER was and NEVER will be."

matt.barnes's picture
Submitted by matt.barnes on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 2:09pm.

yet you still just posted about 5 comments in the last 5 minutes.

grassroots's picture
Submitted by grassroots on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 9:54am.

Hey Cal, can I get a half page ad for free too? SPLOST doesn't pay for anything it promises and this is a giant leap of assumption that any money will be used for this. This plus John Munford's commercial/article equals a whole page. I expect a pro SPLOST ad every weak disguised as an journalistic article. Like I said to Munford's article, the only people voting for this are govt workers and teachers.

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