Federal stimulus dollars available for higher education this fiscal year should be applied to deferred maintenance projects, said Reggie Robinson, president and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents, on Wednesday.
He also recommended that the $9.6 million available to Kansas higher education institutions this fiscal year be distributed among institutions under the board’s control according to the percentages of state general fund money they receive.
“This is an atypical funding stream,” and requires a unique approach for how to spend the short-term boost in funding levels, Robinson said.
He reiterated to the Board of Regents some comments he has made previously: Kansas would need to fund higher education at $747 million to access stimulus funds for fiscal year 2010 and 2011 — a level of state funding that would be consistent with fiscal year 2006 levels.
While the governor’s budget recommendations are above that level, recommendations by the Senate Ways and Means Committee are slightly below that amount, Robinson said. While the Kansas House currently has the funding at a level higher than the minimum needed to qualify for federal stimulus money, its members have said they are not yet done cutting yet, Robinson said.
Higher education institutions could potentially access up to $92 million in stimulus funds each year if they qualify.
There are many specific requirements for the stimulus funds — both in terms of what the money is used for, and reporting to the government how it is spent, Robinson said.
“The accountability for this money is going to be intense,” he said, adding that addressing deferred maintenance of university facilities is an area explicitly named in the bill as a suggested use of funds.
He said some forbidden uses of the money included placing it into endowments or using it for athletic facilities.
Both higher education and K-12 education would be drawing from the same pot of available stimulus money for Kansas, Robinson said — an amount that totals $367 million for the entire period covered by the stimulus bill.
During today’s session of the board, regents are scheduled to discuss stimulus funding further and take action on Robinson’s recommendations.