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DiGiorgio: Changes ahead for Winthrop campus

Multiple improvements are on the horizon for Winthrop University, including building updates and a potential salary increase.

In an executive board of trustees meeting Wednesday, Winthrop President Anthony DiGiorgio discussed some legislative updates that could be a good sign for higher education. Revenue might be available for distribution on the state level, something that has led to "some talk" of salary increases for faculty and staff.

However, that is tempered by the fact that nearly half of the revenue is in non-recurring funds.

DiGiorgio called it a "double-edged sword."

"Clearly, we would love for our faculty and staff to receive an increase," he said. "The positives are obvious - the increase. The negative is yet another annualization."

The state provides resources only for items funded by state revenue alone, he said. However, salaries are paid through several different avenues - meaning that for every 1 percent increase in salaries, the university will have to find $370,000 from some other source.

Faculty and staff have not had a salary increase in four years.

DiGiorgio didn't have an estimate on what a potential increase would be, given that it's still just a possibility.

Gov. Nikki Haley did not include state employee salary increases in her budget requests, he said.

Recently, university officials have been in talks with state government officials as they move forward with funds for the 2012-2013 year.

DiGiorgio did not foresee any cuts on the state level to the university.

"I don't think we're near any state reduction," he said. "I think that chapter is behind us."

But he cautioned that a cut wasn't completely ruled out. State appropriations have fallen drastically in the last several years. In the 2009-2010 year, the university had about $16 million in state appropriations; now it's closer to $12 million.

DiGiorgio presented requests to state House members, using the 2009-2010 numbers.

"We were very direct with the House committee, and I will be direct with the Senate committees as well in terms of what our needs are," he said.

"Some restoration and recurring dollars are important to the future of this institution and higher education," he said.

Among the capital items Winthrop requested:

$3.5 million to replace the roof of the Withers Building. Constructed in the early 1900s, the building's roof is original and the university has been "patching the patches" on the roof.

$2 million for rehabilitation projects, including transforming the former Coca-Cola plant on Cherry Road into specialized classrooms for graphic design students. The building functions as the university's operations center.

Money for scientific equipment along with equipment in other departments.

"We are state-of-the-art when it comes to our students studying science," DiGiorgio said. "We want our students to be knowledgeable of state-of-the-art technology so they can take that out to the workplace."

With a current debt service fee, a little less than $1 million will go into transforming the interior of Dacus Library, including study rooms equipped for smart technology, compact shelving and a round information desk.

While a new library is not in the foreseeable future, DiGiorgio estimated the improvements at Dacus could begin in May and be ready by the next academic year.

DiGiorgio also touched on the College Town Action Plan, an initiative to create a "college town atmosphere."

"It really is alive," he said. "It's still going to be slow-going ... but a lot of good things have happened."

In a workshop last week, city planning and development director Bill Meyer said the plan is "on track." A set of short-, mid- and long-term goals have been set up, with at least five completed.

Discussions within the plan have included a recent open house to make the area more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly; talks with downtown business leaders about letting students swipe their ID cards for payment; and a public streetcar line linking the university with the Bleachery and downtown Rock Hill.