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KU likely to receive $35M over 5 years for maintenance

At the last minute of this year's session, the Kansas Legislature approved funding to address KU's top legislative priority. However, the $410.5-million plan wasn't quite as much as state universities had hoped for.

The five-year plan will begin addressing maintenance backlogs that have been growing at Kansas' state universities for years. KU, K-State and other institutions of higher education had estimated the deferred maintenance backlog at more than $660 million. KU alone estimated its needs at more than $200 million.

Under the plan, about $90 million will be distributed over a five- year period for campus repairs. Jim Modig, director of Design and Construction Management, said KU will likely receive about $25 million over five years, and the KU Medical Center should receive about $9.8 million.

The Kansas Board of Regents will meet with representatives from each of the six universities to develop a five-year plan for the repairs. Modig said utility tunnels remain KU's top priority. The cost of fixing the crumbling tunnels, which carry steam heat to campus buildings, as well as house Internet and phone lines, has been estimated at more than $8 million. KU's Lawrence campus will likely be allotted roughly $8 million each fiscal year. The project will be tackled in stages.

"We are assessing the tunnel project to phase and stage the work over two or three years to ensure we have steam service to every building in the fall before the start of heating season. The phasing and staging will establish the needed annual cash flow to complete the tunnel repairs and replacements," Modig said.

Addressing ventilation problems and outdated labs in Malott, Haworth and Wescoe halls are also top priorities. Estimates KU shared with regents were based on an estimated "down payment" plan of $57 million.

"With about $25 million over five years, what we got is about half of the original proposed down payment," Modig said. "We are grateful for the funding allocated, and we plan to do the very best we can with it."

Several other plans for addressing the maintenance backlog were suggested and failed throughout the session. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius proposed raising Kansas Turnpike tolls.

The plan will begin in fiscal year 2008. Beginning that fiscal year, money will be transferred from state funds to pay for the repairs. In fiscal year 2008, $30 million will be transferred from the statewide maintenance and disaster relief fund. In fiscal year 2009, $13 million will be transferred from that fund, while $7 million will come from the state general fund. In the following three fiscal years, $15 million, $15 million and $10 million will be transferred from the state general fund, respectively.

The plan also contains $100 million in funding through low interest loans for community colleges and Washburn University. It also authorizes new tax credits for 2008-2012 to encourage private donations for deferred maintenance.

Keith Yehle, director of government relations, said the university will keep the matter at the top of its legislative priority list for coming years.

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