Archive for Friday, December 19, 2003

Universities’ upkeep funds cut

Apparent legislative glitch costs state colleges $6 million

December 19, 2003


— An apparent glitch in a state budget bill will cost state universities $6 million in funds intended for building maintenance, officials said Wednesday.

"That's a very devastating blow to deferred maintenance," said Kansas University Chancellor Robert Hemenway, whose university will lose about $1.5 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2004.

Universities typically receive about $13 million a year in the state's Educational Building Fund. The regents office earlier this year compiled a list of $672 million in major repairs needed for state university buildings, including about $320 million at KU.

The problem is tied to the wording of a "tax accelerator" included in the current year's budget. Some property taxes will be collected early, in May 2004 instead of in June, in an effort to balance this year's budget.

Sen. Stephen Morris, R-Hugoton, said the bill was intended to take additional money collected in 2004 for the state's building fund and keep the maintenance allocation at its current levels in the future.

Instead, the provision cut the amount provided in 2005 from $13 million to $7 million.

Morris said he and others on the conference committee didn't realize there would be a cut -- especially because he's an advocate of increasing the amount universities receive for building upkeep.

"It was a surprise to see what had actually transpired," Morris said. "I'm really concerned about the amount of money we're giving them to start with."

Kansas Board of Regents staff members learned of the cut by a memo from the state budget division. Duane Goossen, state budget director, did not return a phone message from the Journal-World Thursday.

The cut left participants in Thursday's Kansas Board of Regents meeting confused. Marvin Burris, vice president for administration and finance, said universities should be entitled to the money gathered in the current fiscal year.

"Where did those dollars go, you're wondering," said Janice DeBauge, chairwoman of the board.

Regents plan to ask the Legislature to reinstate the $6 million in next year's budget. Morris said he would support the effort.

"They have a decaying infrastructure," he said. "I don't want to short them any from this small pot."

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