At the start of this year’s legislative session, legislative budget writers heard a report on deferred maintenance at the state’s public colleges and universities, complete with shocking pictures showing rotting window frames, cracked and deteriorating sidewalks, corroded and leaking boilers, and a professor lecturing to a classroom full of students while brown water marks stood out above their heads on the classroom ceiling. Altogether, UI, ISU, BSU and LCSC reported roughly $700 million worth of deferred maintenance needs.
Now, the co-chairs of JFAC have identified money in the Permanent Building Fund that’s available to make a small start on addressing those building alterations and repairs at the colleges and universities: $12.5 million. The money is available from cigarette tax funds that would normally go to repaying the Capitol renovation bonds and funding the school bond levy equalization program, for two reasons: The cost of the Capitol renovation came in lower than expected, reducing the fiscal year 2014 bond payment; and fewer funds are required for the bond levy equalization program next year as well, partly because lottery proceeds for that program came in much higher than expected. The joint committee approved the appropriation today on a unanimous, 18-0 vote.
“I think we’ve all known that there was a level of deferred maintenance,” said JFAC Co-Chair Dean Cameron, R-Rupert. “We know that this doesn’t solve the problem. We just didn’t know how bad it was.”
The University of Idaho emphasized the problem when JFAC members were up north for a tour in the fall, and budget analysts worked with all the universities to put together the report to quantify the problem.
“Frankly, there are a lot of other choices that we probably should be considering, but given the constraints on the budget, given the constraints of other issues at play in this Legislature, we thought this was the best approach we could take,” Cameron said. “We’re grateful that we’re able to take one small step forward.”
Under the appropriation, which was made by reopening the Permanent Building Fund budget, BSU, ISU and UI would each get $3.75 million to address their deferred maintenance needs, and LCSC would get $1.25 million.
It was the final decision made by JFAC at the close of three weeks of agency budget-setting. The joint committee is now adjourned subject to the call of the chair.