In a tight budget year, Missouri legislators are discussing establishing a matching fund to aid construction projects at state colleges and universities, but even if bills pass in both chambers — it is unlikely to help Truman State.
If passed in both chambers, Senate Bill 655 and House Bill 1502, will create the Higher Education Capital Fund to give schools half the money for construction, maintenance and renovation if the school raises the other have through private fund raising.
Christopher Polley, a research associate for the department of Higher Education, said the legislation was introduced as a “companion bill” in both the House and Senate, because it gives the bill a greater chance of passing.
He said Senate passed their bill Tuesday and referred it to the House. The House bill will likely not progress because of that, he said.
Paul Wagner, Higher Education deputy commissioner, said the bill does not allow schools to use public money, such as tuition, to match the grant. He said because of that, the University of Missouri-Columbia is the only school that supports the bill because it has a large number of alumni to rely on for private donations.
Some colleges and universities may choose not to use this fund, depending upon their specific capital improvement needs.
Janson Thomas, chief of staff for Senator Timothy Green, who sponsored the SB 655, said the commissioner for Higher Education should establish a grant application that ensures that all of the state schools benefit from the fund.
Thomas said the bill requires schools to raise money through private donations to ensure that tuition does not increase to pay for capital projects.
Budget Director Dave Rector, said Truman State would struggle to raise enough private donations to benefit from the fund.
“Our next priority is to renovate Baldwin Hall and [McClain Hall] — $40 million,” he said. “How in the world would we come up with $20 million?”
Rector said Truman recently completed the 5-year Bright Minds Bright Futures campaign, which raised $30 million. He said most private donations, like those received during the campaign, are intended for scholarships — not facility projects.
Truman’s latest big construction project, the Health and Exercise Sciences Building, was completed last year with $11 million coming from the state and $3 million from Truman. He said projects like this could be difficult to fund during the future if the bill is passed.
He said even smaller projects like replacing roofing on Violette Hall, Pershing Arena and Baldwin Hall at a cost of $2 million would be difficult to raise private money for.
“Most donors either want to see something built or they want to see their name on something,” Rector said.
Wagner said even if the legislation is passed, schools still can apply for state grants that do not follow the bill’s guidelines.
“It doesn’t necessarily do anything,” he said. “It doesn’t require anything to happen. If it passes it doesn’t make anything happen.”
Wagner said the bill would not be included in Missouri’s operating budget. He said the state treasurer has the power to approve or deny the grants on a case-by-case basis.
“It doesn’t require any money to be put in it,” he said. “It just has an account that would create a fund, which is different than creating money.”
Wagner said the motivation for the bill is to approve more construction projects on campuses, which have been a rarity during recent years because of the tight state budget. He said he thinks the bill has about a 50-50 percent chance of passing.
Thomas said the fund will not be included in the operating budget, because Missouri’s budget for 2013 was passed last month. He said if the fund is established, the General Assembly will be able to appropriate money to the fund for 2014.