NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday said he's disappointed three of the University of Tennessee's four main campuses will not participate in an outsourcing plan his administration spent years developing.
But while the governor and Finance Commissioner Larry Martin voiced doubts about decisions made by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, UT-Knoxville and UT-Martin not to enter into the contract with Jones Lang LaSalle Americas, the governor said he wanted to make it clear he won't cut their budgets as a result.
"There's no recriminations from us or anyone else involved here," he told UT system President Joe DiPietro during the higher education budget hearing. "We're not going to give less money to higher ed because you didn't do what we wanted you to do."
"But," the governor added, "I'd be less than honest if I didn't say I was disappointed in the way the process played out."
DiPietro noted that JLL's proposal had presented UT-Knoxville and UT-Martin with the opportunity for major savings.
"We will hold chancellors accountable for identifying and achieving equivalent savings in other ways," DiPietro vowed.
DiPietro didn't mention that UTC had been doing its own groundskeeping, janitorial services and student housing management for about $260,000 a year less than what JLL's bid was.
The UT Health Science Center, which already uses contracted facilities management for mechanical services, decided to begin using JLL for the service. But various proposals by JLL for repair and maintenance and grounds-keeping weren't used.
JLL noted that UTC didn't offer the company the opportunity to look at areas such as physical plant operations.
Haslam, however, said campuses were largely ignoring an opportunity to save millions annually and that his administration had worked hard to ensure that most public employees would be retained by the company at comparable overall compensation.
And the governor also cautioned that state funding support, which under his administration has attracted national attention over the last three years by reversing a decades-old trend of states forcing public colleges and universities to fund increased costs through student tuition, won't always be so flush when revenues eventually tighten.
Speaking with reporters afterward, DiPietro said, "Many of the things [Haslam] said reflected my comments" at last week's UT Board of Trustees meeting, where chancellors explained their decisions.
"Great universities should be places where you look at all the data before you elect to make a decision," DiPietro said.
The JLL outsourcing was fiercely opposed by faculty, some administrators, workers, the United Campus Workers Union and the Tennessee State Employees Association.
DiPietro said that in some instances, "there were some people who were ignorant or biased about the opportunity."
Many state lawmakers were also opposed, and several made clear they would have the political backs of officials who rejected outsourcing.
This story was updated Nov. 7 at 8:15 p.m. with more information.