Thursday, June 18, 2009

Request for $403.6 million in building and remodeling projects approved by Minnesota State Colleges and Universities trustees

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities will seek authorization for $403.6 million in funding next year for construction and remodeling projects across the state. The Board of Trustees Thursday approved a list of 31 projects that will be submitted for funding.

The request to the Legislature is for $305.8 million in state general obligation bond financing with $97.8 million in debt service financed by the system and its institutions, bringing the total project authorization to $403.6 million.

The top priority is $110 million in repair and replacement projects for roofs and mechanical and electrical systems, as well as health and safety improvements, on nearly all 54 campuses.

"Repair and replacement projects are the No. 1 priority because we must make sure the system’s 855 buildings are, first and foremost, in good repair," said Chancellor James H. McCormick. "These projects also give us the opportunity to reduce energy by using energy-efficient materials and devices, as well as sustain these important state buildings into the future." Overall, the system is responsible for nearly one-third of state-owned building space.

Funds also are being sought for 30 other capital improvement projects, which largely would add, replace or remodel classrooms, science labs and applied technology labs.

Laura King, the system’s vice chancellor and chief financial officer, said, “We will be able to better serve the growing number of students on our campuses if we can make these renovations and improvements.” Enrollment of students taking credit courses has increased by 10,572 students between 2002 and 2008, and is projected to continue increasing.

Board Chair David Olson said, "These projects correspond directly to the board's strategic plan that calls for increasing access and opportunity, strengthening regional and state economic vitality, delivering high-quality learning options and services, and promoting innovation.

"We are optimistic that the governor and Legislature will recognize that upgrading our existing facilities, particularly for science and technology programs, will help us produce more graduates that the state’s employers need to remain globally competitive," Olson said. Legislators are expected to visit campuses around the state this summer and fall to become familiar with the capital requests.

The 31 projects were winnowed from more than $700 million in requests submitted by the system's institutions. In January, teams of representatives from the campuses and system office scrutinized and scored the proposals.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system comprises 32 state universities and community and technical colleges serving the higher education needs of Minnesota. The system serves about 250,000 students per year in credit-based courses and an additional 140,000 students in non-credit courses.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Unallotment announced

Gov. Pawlenty today announced further cuts to state government and aid to local governments through the unallotment process in order to resolve the remaining $2.7 billion budget deficit. Many of the cuts will go into effect July 1, 2009, the beginning of the 2010 fiscal year, however many of the cuts will be made in the second year of the biennium due to interaction with the federal stimulus funds.

The governor unalloted a total of $100 million to higher education in 2011, the second year of the biennium. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and the University of Minnesota received a cut of $50 million each.

The governor did not make across-the-board cuts and left K-12 education, public safety, corrections, the national guard, veterans affairs and nursing homes unharmed. Here is a summary of the cuts:

• $300 million Reduction of local aids and credits
• $67 million Reduction of refunds and other payments
• $236 million Reduction in human services spending
• $100 million Reduction in higher education appropriations
• $33 million Reduction in most state agency operating budgets
• $1.77 billion K-12 payment deferrals and adjustments
• $169 million Administrative actions

Details of the proposed unallotments may be found here.

The letter to Gov. Pawlenty regarding unallotments can be found here.

The unallotments are recommendations, and are not considered final. The governor and his administration will follow the process of consulting with legislative leaders for their input and reaction. On Thursday at 3:00, the Legislative Advisory Commission will hold a hearing to hear from Commissioner Tom Hanson with Minnesota Management and Budget on the unallotments. By law, the governor's administration has to consult with legislative leaders, but he does not need legislative approval.

Thursday, June 18
3:00 PM
Legislative Adivsory Commission
Room: 15 State Capitol
Chairs: Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Sen. Larry Pogemiller
Agenda: Consultation on unallotment as required by state statute.