With the administration planning an “austere” capital appropriations bill, Ohio’s colleges and universities have been asked to work together to propose projects rather than duke it out and see what gets funded.
Gov. John Kasich in December called on higher education institutions to collaborate and advocate for each other’s proposals. His guidance prompted the formation of a capital planning commission that is now working to meet a Feb. 15 deadline to offer recommendations.
“What we’ve asked them to do is to come to a consensus among themselves as to what they deem to be the important projects,” Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said. “We think this is a far better way of doing it than simply seeing which university’s lobbyists can yell the loudest. We think it’s fair and maximizes resources in a time when we have to do that.”
The process is different from past capital bill approaches that relied on a formula.
“An amount of money was distributed to campuses according to formula, which means a campus was entitled to a certain amount of money based upon the age of its facilities and its enrollment and the amount of infrastructure that it had to maintain,” Inter-University Council of Ohio President Bruce Johnson said in a Friday interview. He said the new approach is more strategic.
Mr. Johnson is on the seven-member planning commission led by Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee. Members, which include leaders from community colleges and universities, have been teleconferencing every week since mid-December.
Mr. Johnson that the group will evaluate each institution’s proposal and make recommendations to the college and university presidents as a group. He said choosing projects will be based on certain principals based on “how you describe a good project, so it would be strengthening learning environments, and campus safety and adding to the number of degrees” among other considerations.
“The various university presidents can look around and they know what are important projects and critical projects and the projects that must be attended to at a time when you’re just cash-strapped and finite resources,” Mr. Nichols said. “We feel that they’ll be able to advise us as to what’s necessary as opposed to the decisions coming from Broad and High (streets).”
Mr. Johnson said he would meet with leaders at 15 universities next week to hear their proposals.
“We will have a better understand of what they believe their best projects are for the capital bill and then we will be evaluating them and making a series of recommendations,” he said. “You can’t fund everybody’s project.”
Mr. Johnson said the Office of Budget and Management has given the committee a control number of $400 million, which is down from years past. Although the state did not do a capital bill in fiscal years 2011-12, higher education received $498.56 million in FY 2009-10 and $528.63 million in FY 2007-08, according to budget documents.
“The money is a little bit less, so we’ll be struggling with that,” Mr. Johnson said.
OBM has also advised that $50 million would likely be earmarked for statewide projects. Mr. Johnson said the OhioLINK library consortium would be an example of such a project.
“The reality is this capital bill’s going to be far more austere and constrained than in years past,” Mr. Nichols said. “Given the fact that we have limited resources, we want to maximize them as much as possible.”
Mr. Johnson said the proposal likely wouldn’t facilitate any campus expansions.
“We heard there was a strong preference (from the administration) for maintenance and renovation as opposed to new builds and we support that,” he said. “There’s not nearly enough money to continue to build out the campuses. It’s important that we maintain the structures that we currently have and renovate them so that they’re capable of delivering world-class education.”
Mr. Johnson said the new approach to providing a capital proposal is challenging but that all parties are up to it and it is progressing nicely.
“It’ll go really well until everyone sees the print outs of the recommendations,” he said, adding he is not sure how higher education presidents will react.
“The governor has challenged us to collaborate and to focus on those projects that are most important to the state and we’re trying to do that to the best of our ability while meeting the state’s obligation to provide education to all of our students,” he said.
Prior to Gov. Kasich’s request that institutions work together on their capital proposals, institutions submitted requests to the Board of Regents. Mr. Johnson said the final proposal would likely not resemble those submissions, which include:
· Ohio State University: $78.1 million for two dozen projects that include repairs, upgrades and renovations.
- Ohio University: $24.79 million for the main campus’ basic renovations and instructional and data processing.
- University of Toledo: $20.75 million for nine projects including renovations and project designs.
- Kent State University: $19.08 million for 12 projects including roof work, replacements and renovations in addition to basic renovations.
- University of Akron: $13.8 million for major renovations at its main campus through its academic facilities enhancement initiative.
- Bowling Green State University: $12.48 million for academic buildings rehabilitation.
- Cleveland State University: $12.3 million for seven projects including repairs and planning study.
- Stark State University: $10.98 million for four projects including basic renovations and a parking lot project.
- Wright State University: $9.85 million for four renovation projects at the Dayton Campus and $461,750 for two renovations at Lake Campus.
- Youngstown State University: $8 million for four upgrade or renovation projects.
- Southern State Community College: $5.88 million for four projects including renovations.
- Shawnee State Community College: $1.64 million for plaza concrete renovation.
- Rio Grande Community College: $6.75 million for four renovation and remediation projects.