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University-financed building projects bill clears House committee

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Posted: Friday, February 8, 2013 9:29 am | Updated: 9:37 am, Fri Feb 8, 2013.

Planned renovations to Murray State University’s Hester Hall and housing and dining facilities, as well as an upgrade of the College Courts sprinkler system, are on track after a bill to authorize state universities to issue agency bonds cleared the House budget committee Thursday.

According to the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, House Bill 7 would authorize six of Kentucky’s state universities to issue agency bonds and assume the debt for 11 specific building construction projects at a collective cost of approximately $363 million. The projects would be funded by the universities’ own revenue streams instead of state dollars, according to the bill. The bill is sponsored jointly by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and House Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chairman Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford. It was approved by Rand’s committee Thursday morning and now goes to the full House for consideration, the LRC said.

On Jan. 10, Gov. Steve Beshear held a press conference with a bipartisan group of legislative leaders and state university presidents to announce a plan to approve the issuance of bonds by public universities for campus improvements supported by university revenues. The bill would authorize agency bonding for a total of $15.4 million in renovations at MSU, which are estimated to affect 2,828 students, create 200 jobs and create a value of $25,516,382 for the state, according to an information packet sent to Beshear and the General Assembly by the presidents of Kentucky’s four-year, public universities.

Included in the $15.4 million total is $9.9 million in renovations to Hester College, $590,000 in upgrades to the sprinkler system at College Courts and $4.9 million in other assorted facility improvements.

The bill would also authorize bonding for three projects at the University of Kentucky, two at Northern Kentucky University, and one each at Morehead State, the University of Louisville, and Western Kentucky University, UK President Eli Capilouto said in the LRC press release. He reiterated that the projects must be self-financed with the universities’ own revenues, must  fill an urgent need to meet the universities’ goals of student success and retention, begin in the next calendar year, and not rely on state funding in future budget cycles.

Rand said the current state budget has the lowest level of bonding in recent memory, with no agency bonds authorized for state universities.

“I think since that time the university presidents, in conjunction with the governor and House and Senate leadership, worked on a very narrow list of projects they think are critical to their institutions and the students who attend there,” he said.

Attempts to reach MSU Chief Facilities Officer Kim Oatman for comment were unsuccessful Thursday.

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