UW Housing Plan, Science Initiative Gets Push-Back From Some Legislators
The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees is getting push-back from the Wyoming Legislature on two projects that have been front and center on the trustee’s agenda: the 10-year housing plan and the Science Initiative facility.
The trustees heard a Legislative update on the legislature from Chris Boswell, Vice President for Governmental and Community Affairs at UW, during their monthly meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 14, who informed them that there was movement from some in the Legislature to identify the universities’ reserves as ‘new’ and ‘found’ money, that can be used to fund the Science Initiative facility. Boswell said by doing so, the Legislature hopes to free up the $100 million in previously appropriated funds for other uses.
“It’s unfortunate the Senate has taken a bit of a campaign that this is ‘new money’ and ‘found money,’” Boswell said. “The reason this is being described that way is there have been motions in the Appropriations Committee to reduce- essentially to raid- the $100 million in previously appropriated funds for the UW Science Initiative facility to make those funds available for other state purposes.”
Boswell said the motion didn’t succeed, but said it pointed to opposition in the Legislature, especially in the Senate side of the Joint Appropriations Committee.
In June 2017, the Board of Trustees voted to move 80 percent of campus units’ unspent cash balances into centralized reserves as part of the university’s 2017-2018 budget, according to a UW release. Boswell said these reserve accounts are what the Senate side of the Joint Appropriations Committee is claiming is ‘found money.’ Boswell said the reserves most frequently mentioned are the operations reserve account and the special projects reserve.
Boswell said one suggestion that received Senate support was that roughly $40 million dollars of the Science Initiative facility appropriations made in prior years should be withdrawn, leaving it up to the university to replace it with university reserves.
“That’s not a good idea. It indicates a, what I will call, a cavalier attitude on the part of some Senators who have chosen to describe these funds as new money- as found money –as money without any restrictions upon it,” Boswell said.
Last month, the trustees voted to make the Science Initiative its No. 1 construction funding priority for the 2018 Legislative Session.
Boswell also said the Joint Appropriations Committee took action on a capital construction bill that puts a moratorium on the demolition of residence halls and construction at UW for a period of time. The trustees voted to accept a 10-year housing plan last month that would potentially cost $245 million, in order for UW to more effectively compete with peer institutions. Demolishing Hill and Crane Hall was a major part of that plan.
The bill also creates a Legislative UW housing task force that includes two members of the senate and the house as well as a designee from Governor Matt Mead, a designee of UW President Laurie Nichols and a designee of the State Treasurer. It includes membership of two UW trustees as well.