Regents inspect funding wish list

Matt Graham

University officials will likely ask the Legislature this spring for $206.1 million in capital funding to help pay for building projects, which is almost $50 million more than they requested during the last legislative session.

University Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter presented the Board of Regents last week with the University’s $269.1 million preliminary capital bonding request for 2006. Of the $269.1 million request, the University will ask the state to pay $206.1 million.

The capital bonding request is a list of building projects the University brings to the state each year for funding.

The version of the capital bonding request presented to the board is not final. The board will vote on the final request at its November meeting.

The University wishes to build a roughly $40 million expansion of the Carlson School of Management and a new $62.2 million Science Teaching and Student Services Center on the East Bank.

University President Bob Bruininks said the Carlson School must be expanded to meet increasing demand for its services.

He said the school is turning away too many applicants who go on to other states, costing Minnesota a valuable resource.

With the planned renovations, the Carlson School is expected to enroll 75 percent to 100 percent more students.

The University also hopes to build a medical biosciences building. Frank Cerra, senior vice president for the Academic Health Center, said the University spends $10 million annually to conduct research off campus. He said the $60 million project would eliminate the need for that, eventually paying for itself.

The University is also asking for $80 million in renovations and maintenance as part of the Higher Education Asset Preservation and Renewal fund. Unlike other projects in the request, the state would pay for the entirety of these renovations.

The state has traditionally been hesitant to pay for all the maintenance costs, leading Regent John Frobenius to say, “this dance of HEAPR is killing the University.”

The state approved a bonding bill last spring that gave the University $108.3 million for building projects. It fully complied with all the institution’s requests except for HEAPR, Frobenius said.

The University also wants to renovate the business school on the Duluth campus and is asking for money to improve field stations around the state.

Pfutzenreuter also unveiled to the regents the University’s six-year capital financing plan. A six-year plan is produced every year to help the University allocate its spending.

He said the University is in good financial shape and can afford to take on more debt if it has to.