GSA concerned about House cuts in building repairs

Officials at the General Services Administration are warning that a key spending bill passed by the House last week does not contain sufficient funds for needed repairs at federal buildings.

In its fiscal 2001 budget, the Clinton administration requested $721 million for GSA's repairs and alterations budget. But the 2001 Treasury-Postal appropriations bill passed by the House last week included only $490 million in such funds. The House did not allocate any money for new construction projects.

GSA manages and maintains approximately 1,700 federal buildings, acting as the government's landlord.

In March, the General Accounting Office issued a report ("Federal Buildings: Billions are Needed for Repairs and Alterations," T-GGD-00-73) saying GSA needed to make about $4 billion worth of repairs at federal buildings. Between fiscal 1995 and fiscal 2000, the agency received $1.7 billion in repair funds from Congress.

More than 900 buildings-54 percent of the GSA inventory-were in need of repair as of October 1999, said Bernard L. Ungar, director of GAO's Government Business Operations Issues, at a hearing before the House Transportation Subcommittee on Public Buildings.

According to Robert Peck, commissioner of GSA's Public Buildings Service, more than half of the federal buildings under the agency's control are more than fifty years old.

Peck said the funding cuts are particularly frustrating since GSA has made efforts to improve its service to agencies. Customer satisfaction with GSA services has been rising steadily for seven years, he said, and now stands at 85 percent.

Peck said the revenues GSA receives from agencies for leasing and maintaining buildings have gone up 38 percent since 1997, but Congress doesn't allow the agency to spend all of the money it takes in to pay for upkeep of federal facilities.

"The bottom line is we have the money to spend, but what we are allowed to spend [by Congress] is less than requested," said Peck.

The Treasury-Postal bill, H.R. 4871, now heads to the Senate. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Treasury and the General Government has already approved $671 million in fiscal 2001 funds for federal building repairs.

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