SEMO files capital budget requests, expects no response from Jefferson City

Friday, July 1, 2011

Call it a wish list -- one that hasn't been fulfilled in a long time.

Given the state of the economy and the diminishing role state funding is playing in higher education, it could be a long time before Southeast Missouri State University's capital budget requests to the state come through.

The university's board of regents this week approved millions of dollars in short- and long-range funding requests -- a formal exercise in futility, perhaps, over the past decade.

"They [the state] haven't actually given out money through this process, I think, since 2001," said Kathy Mangels, Southeast's vice president for finance and administration.

"It's a wish and a song," joked board member Al Spradling.

While there may be no funding in the cupboard, Southeast president Ken Dobbins said the university's request for nearly $19.52 million in state capital improvement appropriations for fiscal year 2013 would pay for realistic needs. Mangels said the idea is to keep Southeast's capital demands in front of lawmakers.

Southeast's nearly $60 million bond issue will cover the costs of renovations to Magill and Academic halls, projects that had been top priorities in previous capital budget requests to the Missouri Department of Higher Education. But the bonding capacity won't reach a number of deferred major projects, such as updating building envelopes and mechanical, electrical and HVAC systems throughout many of the campus' oldest structures.

Included in the capital budget request is maintenance to Southeast's tunnel system, which would include repair and/or replacement of portions of the structures, additional lighting and hazardous abatement.

"Due to past expansion of the campus infrastructure, some sections of the tunnels have become overcrowded and do not allow proper use," the regent's motion document says.

Long term, Southeast requests $21.87 million in fiscal year 2014 for the construction of a 44,000-square-foot business incubator, a project once poised for state funding and vehemently opposed by Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau. In 2009, the project was to receive $4.5 million before the funding was cut. Gov. Jay Nixon had expressed interest in issuing bonds for state construction projects. Members of the state House of Representatives rallied behind the effort at the time, authorizing $700 million in bonds for university construction.

The issue ultimately failed in the Senate and was opposed by Crowell, who said it would not stimulate the economy as intended.

"The incubator will provide leased space in which parties wishing to begin small business endeavors can develop, test, and begin marketing products," Southeast documents say.

River Campus expansion also is on the wish list. The university seeks $16.7 million in fiscal year 2015 for the development of 35,000-square-foot, three-story brick masonry building with basement to house the ceramics department, wood and metal sculpture labs, painting studio, dance studio, band practice room, general classrooms and faculty offices.

"With this project, both the ceramics and dance programs can be reunited with the rest of the Arts program," the university budget request form says.

mkittle@semissourian.com

388-3627

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