Dayton cuts U capital request in half

The University asked for $170 million from this year’s bonding bill to fund several construction projects.

Dayton cuts U capital request in half

Dina Elrashidy

 

The University of Minnesota received disappointing news Tuesday for the outlook on its wish list of construction projects for 2012.

Gov. Mark Dayton revealed a $775 million bonding bill proposal for the 2012 legislative session that would allocate $78 million in funds for construction projects at the University âÄî less than half of the schoolâÄôs request.

âÄúWould we have liked more? Absolutely,âÄù said Richard Pfutzenreuter, the UniversityâÄôs chief financial officer.

The biggest chunk of the UniversityâÄôs allocation is $54 million to renovate the Old Main Utility Building. But Dayton left out several other projects in his proposal.

The Board of Regents finalized its capital request to the Legislature at its October meeting. The University sought about $170 million from the state to fund projects, including a $14 million renovation of Eddy Hall, among others.

Pfutzenreuter said the University will lobby for more funds, specifically for Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement money, which is used to make repairs and improvements around campus.

In DaytonâÄôs plan, the University would receive $20 million for HEAPR âÄî $70 million short of its request.

All of the projects in the capital request are top priorities, Vice President for University Services Kathleen OâÄôBrien said. The University was very selective in choosing what projects to put on its request, she said.

âÄúWe have literally dozens of projects that have merit that we did not bring forward,âÄù OâÄôBrien said.

Among them was a new ambulatory care clinic, which the board removed from the capital request before its approval Oct. 14.

OâÄôBrien pointed to the UniversityâÄôs efficient use of money from the bonding bill passed at the end of the government shutdown over the summer as a selling point to giving the University more aid.

Last year, the University received $88 million of the $531 million bonding bill for HEAPR, the physics and nanotechnology building and to mitigate the light railâÄôs effects on laboratories.

Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, said he expects the final bonding bill to give more money to higher education. In a previous interview with the Minnesota Daily, Senjem predicted the bonding bill would end up at about $400 million.

The University and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system usually each get a third of state bonding bills. A $400 million bill would put the UniversityâÄôs share at just $133 million.

âÄúI donâÄôt think we have to get excited about whatâÄôs in the bill or whatâÄôs not in the bill,âÄù Senjem said, stressing that the final product will look much different.

Dayton also proposed $27 million for a new St. Paul Saints stadium, as well as $25 million each for the Southwest light-rail line and the renovation of Nicollet Mall.

Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, said that several projects are likely to get cut âÄî including the Southwest light-rail project.

âÄúOnce we get the forecast, weâÄôll have a much better handle on it,âÄù Howes said. The stateâÄôs updated budget forecast will be released in February.

DaytonâÄôs proposal is the first step in a lengthy process that can change the UniversityâÄôs share of the bonding bill entirely, OâÄôBrien said.

âÄúThis is really the beginning,âÄù she said.­­­