Archive for Sunday, April 1, 2007

House, governor split over repair costs

April 1, 2007


— With time running out in the 2007 legislative session, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and House Republican leaders are far apart on how to pay for repairs at regents universities.

"We need to deal with that issue this year," Sebelius said.

The Legislature meets Monday and Tuesday before taking a break and then returning April 25 for a wrap-up session.

Universities have said they need $663 million to take care of deferred repairs and maintenance projects.

But in the latest proposal, House Republican leaders offered $75 million in additional funding over five years, called for an increase in nonresident tuition, would make $300 million in low-interest loans available, and would give counties with regents schools the opportunity to raise their sales tax rate by one-tenth of a cent for maintenance projects.

Sebelius said the $75 million "addresses a piece of the puzzle, but in no way addresses the problem."

And of the part that would allow county commissioners to increase sales tax in local counties, she said, "I'm not sure that that is a sensible way to solve the deferred maintenance problem."

Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug said a one-tenth of a cent sales tax increase in Douglas County would raise $1.4 million per year. KU's share of the deferred maintenance projects is approximately $260 million.

"What they are suggesting would be a drop in the bucket," Weinaug said.

In addition, he said, from a public policy standpoint, the proposal doesn't make sense.

"It would be like saying the Shawnee County taxpayers ought to be paying for maintenance on the Capitol building," he said.

Republicans have defended the bill, saying it is a good starting point for discussions.

"We have to have a framework," said House Appropriations Chairwoman Sharon Schwartz, R-Washington. "We've done the responsible thing to take a step forward."

The Senate hasn't adopted a plan for deferred maintenance, and Sebelius' proposal to increase turnpike tolls has gotten no support in the Legislature.

The legislation adopted last week to expand casino gambling in Kansas says a portion of the revenue returned to the state can be used for repairs to schools, but no specific amount has been dedicated.

On another front, Sebelius finds herself at odds with House GOP leaders on a proposal to allow Johnson County voters to decide whether to increase either sales or property taxes, or a combination of the two, to fund a research authority that would be used to help the KU Medical Center and Edwards Campus.

"Letting the people of Johnson County make the decision of whether they think this is a viable economic opportunity makes good sense to me," she said.

But House Majority Leader Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, said he wanted to protect taxpayers from a tax increase.

He said he feared that under the proposal, well-financed interests would mount an expensive campaign to persuade voters to raise their taxes.


Shardwurm 8 years, 6 months ago did we get here again?

Tuition at record highs and going up fast. Students in debt $75 - $100k at the end of college. Taxes through the roof. And the Universities want even more.

Where is all that money going?

Ah yes - professor salaries. The biggest racket on the planet. It's welfare for the educated.

jmadison 8 years, 6 months ago

You betcha! The cost of higher education has been accelerating at a rate second only to health care costs. The tenured professoracrocy meanwhile is less productive than ever, but consuming large quantities of taxpayer dollars at a record clip.

ASBESTOS 8 years, 6 months ago

THey had better also have enough money in this "repair bill" to take care of the asbestos, lead, and mold issues in these buildings as well.

The State of Kansas seems to ignore these issues when funding comes around, but we will be watching in our industry. We have "people" in these Universities watching. The first job that asbestos is not handled correctly ( that is within the laws and regulations FEDERALLY as well as State) there will be legal action action advanced. You simply cannot ignore asbestos in these buildings as old as they are and the fact that THERE IS NO BAN on most asbestos containing building materials. PS, watch out for the vermiculite insulations and added in materials.

THe KDHE Abestos Program is basically closing their eyes to the situation of asbestos, and their lead program is barely in line with the Federal mandates.

Sorry state of affairs.

It appears as if Kansas cannot pay for these repairs, regulate them properly or as much as they would a private development, and simply is unable to manage building construction and assets.

ASBESTOS 8 years, 6 months ago

Remember that the State Employees are protected with the EPA Worker Protection law that institutes OSHA regulations on the State Employee "Worksites". Those adjacent to these areas where ACM and asbestos are disturbed are to be informed, and an exposure assessment must be done and they must be informed of that as well.

Did that happen at those halls at KU that were supposed to be addressed with Indoor Air Quaility issues?

Godot 8 years, 6 months ago

The same university that has the wherewithall to negotiate a merger with a Missouri hospital without legislative oversight in order to increase its revenue, and who can move a football game to Missouri for the same reason, certainly has the means to raise money to fix its buildings.

Stall, legislature. Stall until Hemenway realizes it is his problem to solve. He could do it easily, if only he made it a priority.

Bruce Bertsch 8 years, 6 months ago

Sorry, but this is not the Chancellor's issue, it's the legislature's. The buildings at all six regent's schools are owned by the STATE OF KANSAS, just like the buildings in Topeka. This was/is caused by our elected officials ignoring the regents and the schools and granting an amount for maintenance that is one tenth the amount needed. Of course, then they lowered taxes to make sure the additional funds weren't there.

So now these folks can run and say they didn't raise taxes, when their policies, over the long run, will cause even greater increases because of all the deferred maintenance. And the Republicans call themselves the party of individual responsibility. Maybe they should change that to the party of fiscal irresponsibility.

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 6 months ago

The solution is simple.

KU needs to determine how much it needs for repairs and to be a strong research university, ask the state for the funds, and then raise the remainder through tuition increases.

If the state will not pay, then KU will be forced to raise the money itself, which means higher tuition.

Simple market economics here, folks. The provider of a service must charge for that service an amount that will allow them to continue providing that service.

63BC 8 years, 6 months ago

Godot makes a point.

At once the university is saying he Legislature has to write the check to fix the buildings yet at the same time the Legislature should have no say regarding the medical school affiliation.

Can't have it both ways. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

MyName 8 years, 6 months ago

With morons like the people on this board calling the shots, it's no wonder the legislature feels like they can short shift the people of Kansas out of our state government's most important responsibility: education. All I can say is, do some research before you spout off this BS about how professors are "overpaid and underworked" and contribute "nothing of value". Our American economy is driven by research and development from the PhDs. If we stop funding these people and stop educating our young, that's when China starts eating our lunch.

But who knows maybe you all like working for McDonalds or Walmart instead of having a real job that actually produces something. If that's the case, then by all means keep bashing people with an education.

MyName 8 years, 6 months ago

Can't have it both ways. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

Yeah, well the legislature has been paying less and less each year, both in terms of real dollars and in terms of percentage of the budget. And exactly how much of the budget for the medical school is contributed by the state again?

The legislature can't keep stiffing the piper and still expect the same level of attention as always.

compmd 8 years, 6 months ago

MyName, I was hoping you were going for the kill regarding professor salaries:

What most people don't realize is that some of the highest paid professors receive a significant amount of their salary from grants. They are paid partially with funds brought to the university by their research. This is most obvious in the school of engineering. Its the research dollars that put these profs over the generic CLAS profs.

KU needs to stop spending on silly things (example: if you only knew what the KU jet's overhaul cost and how much the aircraft was worth) and appropriately use and maintain the equipment it has (the room full of decommissioned Xeon 2.8GHz Dells and Sun Blade 2000 workstations collecting dust in Learned is a mindblow). Then maybe this wouldn't be such a big deal.

Godot 8 years, 6 months ago

MyName, if the universities are hard up for maintenance dollars because the legislature has been paying less and less each year for upkeep, why is it that a recent audit shows that the regents system spent $30million of the last big maintenance bond issue on NEW CONSTRUCTION?

BigDog 8 years, 6 months ago

Well first the legislature doesn't trust the information being provided to them on the deferred maintenance list. When they had the information researched there were items that included repairs of football, basketball, and baseball stadiums at the various universities. There was also major remodeling and additions for the home of at least one university president.

Many also believe the estimates for the repairs are inflated.

Some of these situations have created a lack of trust in information being received from the state universities. They believe there is a need for maintenance at many of the universities, many of them have viewed the needs first hand. What they don't believe is the amount that the universities are stating.

oldgoof 8 years, 6 months ago

Godot asks: "why is it that a recent audit shows that the regents system spent $30million of the last big maintenance bond issue on NEW CONSTRUCTION?" .. Because the legislature specifically approved of and included those projects as part of the bond issue, some of which had been on priority lists for construction for 25 years.

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