- Associated Press - Monday, June 9, 2014

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) - South Mississippi university and college officials worry that utilities and insurance will eat up their increased state money.

“The hard part about it is that when you get new money, you want to be able to make improvements,” said Douglas Vinzant, University of Southern Mississippi vice president for finance and administration, told The Hattiesburg American (https://hatne.ws/1ozDiex ).

“It’s a tough sell when you’re spending significantly more to basically stay where you are,” he said.

Pearl River Community College President William Lewis agreed.

“Just to be able to keep the lights on and the water going is a big, big challenge,” Lewis said.

USM received $1.7 million more in state appropriations this year - the smallest increase among the state’s research universities - climbing from $79.4 million in FY 2014 to $81.1 million for FY 2015.

Nibbling into that funding increase, though, are swelling utility and insurance costs.

Vinzant said an 18 percent Mississippi Power rate hike in March and another expected 5 percent hike next January are taking their toll.

The Gulfport-based power company is raising rates to help pay for the new Kemper County energy facility.

“We’re looking at over $1 million worth of an increase in our electric bill in less than a year’s time,” Vinzant said. “That’s a lot of money to this institution.”

USM is budgeting $7.3 million in electrical costs.

PRCC is also feeling the effects of the Mississippi Power increases.

“We’re about a $1.5 million user of electricity at our institution, and you add 20 something percent to that, and it gets pretty expensive,” Lewis said.

Both schools are implementing cost-saving measures from educating students, faculty and staff about energy consumption to adding energy-management systems to campus buildings.

“We can’t control the rates, but we can control how much (electricity) we use,” said Chris Crenshaw, USM assistant vice president for facilities management and planning.

They have less control over insurance costs.

New buildings on the Poplarville campus, such as the Brownstone Center and the White Coliseum, have PRCC officials budgeting $143,000 in additional insurance costs.

At USM, Vinzant said the university will pay $2.7 million in insurance for FY 2015, up $200,000 from FY 2014.

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Information from: The Hattiesburg American, https://www.hattiesburgamerican.com


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