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UF president gives assurances on Shands debt

W. Kent Fuchs
W. Kent Fuchs

University of Florida President Kent Fuchs on Tuesday outlined actions the university has taken to increase oversight of borrowing by UF Health Shands Hospital and its affiliated organizations.

The move is in response to an October report from the state Division of Bond Finance that showed university system debt has risen by 41 percent while overall state debt has declined during the past five years.

The university system's Board of Governors and trustees at each of the state universities have been taking steps to increase their reviews of borrowing on the 12 campuses.

On Jan. 30, the University of Florida Board of Trustees unanimously adopted a new policy for borrowing by the Shands system, which accounts for 80 percent of UF's current $1.35 billion in debt, according to the state Division of Bond Finance.

Under the new policy, Fuchs, who serves on the boards of the various Shands entities, will appoint one of the university's trustees to serve with him on the Shands boards.

The directive will also require the various Shands boards to change their bylaws to state that a debt plan cannot go forward unless Fuchs and the UF trustee are in agreement.

Additionally, Shands will issue at least two reports a year detailing the status of the system's debt.

The reports will be forwarded to the university's Board of Trustees, as well as the Board of Governors and the state Division of Bond Finance.

“We strongly believe that these enhanced governance initiatives will provide proper university oversight of Shands entities, while preserving the structure that has enabled Shands to successfully serve the state of Florida and provide outstanding care to Floridians,” Fuchs told Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet.