The Maneater

Short-term, long-term facility renovations considered by curators

A $100 million multi-phase plan was proposed to renovate or replace outdated research buildings.

Aging and outdated research buildings were a major topic of discussion at the UM System Board of Curators meeting April 27-28, when curators voiced concerns that inadequate facilities would deter top professors and graduate students from coming to the university, as well as cause current faculty members to leave their positions for other schools.

The current estimate, calculated by auditors hired by the UM System, states that there are currently $24 million in backlog facility renovations that are deemed “currently critical” — meaning that the buildings are in inadequate condition.

Beyond immediate maintenance and repairs, the curators discussed long-term projects for MU’s campus that may begin during the 2019 fiscal year, including a multi-stage, $100 million plan that will renovate or completely replace many academic buildings.

The first phase will include the renovation or replacement of Waters Hall, Mumford Hall, Whitten Hall, Stanley Hall and Lefevre Hall, which represent about 10 percent of the total square footage that has been deemed in need of renovation.

For the first phase of the plan, the UM System will be requesting the full $100 million from the state.

Additionally, the curators discussed plans for a new facility for the MU School of Music, a $35 million building that will be partially funded by monetary gifts from private donors and partially through requested funds from the state.

However, in a time when state support for public universities is dwindling, the curators discussed alternative funding options for capital projects.

To help cover facility costs, the curators discussed the possibility of levying a per credit hour fee that will go toward maintenance and construction of new facilities. UM System spokesman John Fougere said in an email that a fee like this would not be implemented during the next school year but may be discussed by campus stakeholders as a possibility.

Tuition and fee decisions will not be made by the curators until next month after the Missouri legislature passes the 2018 fiscal year budget.

The curators also discussed the promotion of public-private partnerships between the university and private businesses to help fund new facilities.

Though the curators said they were in the “exploratory phase” of developing these relationships with private businesses, several individual schools and colleges already have partnerships established, according to an email from MU spokesman Christian Basi.

This includes a $6,100,000 partnership with General Atomics that supports MU’s research nuclear reactor, a $1,485,699 partnership between the College of Engineering and Ameren UE and a $968,434 partnership between the plant science program and Monsanto, which has gone toward awards for research faculty.

One more option that Ryan Rapp, interim vice president for finance and chief financial officer for the UM System, presented was selling “non-strategic assets” to private companies. This essentially means facilities that are not used for academic or administrative purposes could be sold to and managed by private firms.

This could include facilities such as parking garages, which are now owned and operated by the university but are not used for academic purposes.

Though the curators discussed several alternative funding options for capital projects, external funding sources currently make up only 15 percent of the total budget proposal for the 2019 planned renovations. Some of the curators expressed concerns that donor-funded projects may not necessarily reflect the university’s mission.

However, for projects considered essential to the university, Rapp said the curators should consider multiple avenues for funding.

“For the high priority projects, we're looking for all ways we can get them done,” Rapp said.

Edited by Katherine Stevenson | kstevenson@themaneater.com

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