Legislature grants $242.8 million to U

by Coralie Carlson

Chalk one up for Mark Yudof.
In his first bout with the Legislature as University president, the Texas transplant managed to wow lawmakers into opening the floodgates of funding to the University.
Lawmakers allotted a total of $242.8 million to the University in the 1998 legislative session, which translates into new buildings, better classrooms, more faculty and pay raises for the University community.
The session marks a turnabout from a Legislature that in the past has been stingy with the University — one that school officials said could be a permanent reversal.
“I think the University has built up considerable momentum,” said Marvin Marshak, physics professor and lobbyist. “I do see it continuing into the future.”
Faculty will benefit specifically from the $36 million supplemental budget appropriation. Of that money, $23.6 million comes in the form of recurring dollars, given to the school on an annual basis to hire and compensate faculty and staff. No one would indicate Monday whether the money would be targeted toward certain departments or spread evenly across the University.
“I think and I’m hoping that we’ll have a rebirth in terms of faculty; they’re our greatest resource,” Yudof said last week.
Faculty won’t be the only people on campus eligible for extra money next fall. Legislators bolstered the statewide work-study program with an additional $1.5 million in funding. They also agreed on a plan to distribute a $13.5 million windfall to Minnesota’s Pell Grant recipients from Congress, which required state legislation before students could see the cash.
More than 5,400 University students receive Pell grants, all of whom will see their tuition and school-related financial burden reduced to 47 percent from 50 percent. This means a student who pays $2,000 of a $4,000 annual bill will only have to pay $1,880 next year.
Results of the legislative session could be most visible in upcoming construction on campus. The money needs to be spent in the next two fiscal years, so almost all the projects will be finished by the summer of 2000.
“We have positioned ourselves to roll on these,” said Orlyn Miller, Facilities Management’s senior planner.
Miller said the first projects are on Duluth and Morris campuses. But in the Twin Cities the $1.25 million addition to Amundson Hall should start this summer, as will $3 million in improvements on the women’s softball facilities.
The cellular and molecular biology complex will take longer because lawmakers appropriated only half of the $70 million needed. Demolition of the Jackson-Owre-Millard-Lyon Hall complex off Washington Avenue will begin next April, and construction on the research facility will soon follow.
The 10-year wait by architecture students and staff for a renovated and expanded home will also come to an end soon thanks to legislation that requires the University to get construction underway in the near future.
“It’s never too late to have good news like this,” said Tom Fisher, dean of the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.
During construction, the school’s occupants will be moved into a temporary space — most likely to the Poucher Building next to Sparky’s Bar and Grill on University Avenue. But Fisher said the hassle will be worth the prize.
“It’s a big morale boost for everybody,” Fisher said. “Everyone’s walking around with a smile on their face.”
The onslaught of construction projects will mean relocating classrooms and offices across campus.
“That may mean that the classrooms won’t be located as conveniently as they are today,” Miller said, adding there is ample space on campus to house all of the classes.
One thing that won’t change is the way the University’s top decision-makers are elected to the Board of Regents. Lawmakers ignored requests by the Alumni Association and some legislators to change the election process and board composition.
Before the session got underway, a bicameral committee suggested the electoral process be revised to eliminate some of the politics involved with choosing people to fill the 12 slots on the University’s governing panel.
Lawmakers also scrapped plans to elect regents by in-state and out-state designations instead of the current congressional district format.