There is a certain irony in the members of the Kansas Board of Regents citing $876 million in deferred maintenance needs at state universities at the same time they are approving new building projects, such as a $4 million expansion of the Library Annex on Kansas University’s West Campus.
It’s true that the library project, approved last month, will be paid for with private dollars, but do those contributions include money for future maintenance of the building? Or will the new building add to the maintenance responsibilities that the state already is unable to meet?
The library expansion at KU probably is a good project and it certainly isn’t the only new building that has been approved on the state’s six university campuses in recent years, but how can universities and the regents justify building new buildings at the same time they claim existing buildings are being seriously neglected? Are we just going to let existing buildings crumble beyond repair and replace them with new structures?
As Regents Chairman Gary Sherrer pointed out, “As any homeowner knows, routine maintenance and repair gets more expensive to fix the longer it’s deferred.” That statement may be designed to spur legislators to approve more maintenance funds, but it also raises questions about the regents’ priorities when it comes to protecting state-owned buildings.