OSU will seek bonding at February legislative session
Oregon lawmakers adjourned without granting Oregon State University’s requests for capital bonds for three campus construction projects, but university officials said they’re optimistic they’ll be able to make their case for bonding approval at the start of the Legislature’s session in February.
Jock Mills, OSU’s director of government relations, said legislators analyzed many capital funding proposals from the Oregon University System’s seven public institutions much more closely than in previous years, possibly due to concerns about the state’s ability to carry additional debt in light of the current budget climate.
“We had not previously experienced this level of review, especially for projects that are solely financed using non-state revenues,” Mills said in an email.
As a result, progress on three of the university’s planned projects — the Student Experience Center project, a classroom building and a residence hall — will be delayed until bond funding can be secured. To secure bonds, both OSU students and staff will have to answer questions from members of the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Capital Construction next session on where the revenue will come from to repay the bonds.
Whenever bonds are approved, the university will repay the state for the various bonds over time using the unique funds: student fee dollars for the Student Experience Center, the difference in tuition paid by the increasing number of out-of-state students for the classroom building and room and board charges for the residence hall.
OSU wasn’t planning to start construction on the classroom building and residence hall until early 2013. However, the university hoped to break ground on the Student Experience Center project beginning winter term 2012 — before the next legislative session even began.
“This causes an eight-month delay,” said Memorial Union Director Michael Henthorne. He added that the project has been in the works for five years. It’s estimated to cost around $53 million and include both a renovation of the east wing of the Memorial Union and a 64,000-square-foot building in the space of the current OSU Bookstore parking lot.
Students approved the student fee increase needed to fund the building in a university-wide election in May 2010. The university planned to begin charging students $48 a term during the regular school year beginning this fall, but Henthorne said this plan is up in the air, although the university hopes to have a decision about when to begin charging students these fees by next week.
Though capital funding proposals were rejected for these three projects, the capital construction committee approved capital bonds for several other OSU projects, including $24.1 million in lottery bonds to fund the $50 million, five-story, 100,000-square-foot new home of the College of Business. Malcolm LeMay, the College of Business’ director of operations, said construction is set to begin in spring 2013 with opening scheduled for fall 2014.
Contact Gazette-Times reporter Gail Cole at 541-758-9510 or firstname.lastname@example.org.