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Thursday October 5, 2000

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University seeks funding for 23 new construction projects

By Blake Smith

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Not all of the proposed projects will be started within the next two years, Likins says

As the UA works to complete seven construction projects already underway, university officials want $402 million for 23 new projects during the next two budget years.

The list of projects - including on-campus housing and two more parking structures - was presented to Arizona Board of Regents during their monthly meeting. But simply proposing the construction does not mean it will actually occur in the near future, University of Arizona President Peter Likins said.

"If we wish to build something in that time period, it is imperative that we get it on the list," Likins said. "(Being on the list) does not mean the building will be built, though."

Dick Roberts, UA budget director, agreed that the list submitted to ABOR does not accurately reflect construction projects in the next two years.

"There is a significant difference between the planning document and what we actually execute," Roberts said.

Likins pointed out that ABOR does not fund construction on campus. The state Legislature, students, and monetary gifts make construction projects a reality, he said.

"The Board of Regents essentially acts as a middleman for funding between the universities and the state legislature," Roberts said.

The 23 proposed projects were broken down into three categories: auxiliary, state appropriations and general revenue bonds.

The first category, which is made up of seven projects worth $127 million, encompasses new on-campus housing facilities, renovation of the Park Student Union, and the construction of two new parking structures.

Likins said these projects are unique because they will pay for themselves.

Parking structures and new housing will be paid for through student rent and parking permits.

The second category, which also includes seven projects totaling just more than $140 million, deals with renovating and technologically improving academic buildings.

If the UA is to make these improvements a reality, it will have to get direct funding or bonds from the legislature.

"These will go nowhere without the approval from the state legislature," Roberts said.

The last category, which is comprised of nine projects that will cost about $134 million, includes the Ina Gittings building expansion and a relocation of UA Facilities Services.

Roberts said projects in this category are at the mercy of legislative bonds, which are issued sparingly.

"They say 'Well, if you want to build facilities you can go sell bonds,'" he added.

The university could tap into its $73 million in academic revenue bonds, Roberts said.

While administrators may still be discussing the financial aspects of the proposed projects, journalism junior Brad Durkee said students are already negatively affected by projects around campus.

"They are punishing the people here now for the benefit of the future," Durkee said.

Roberts said students will not see very much increase in the volume of projects next year.

"Someone is saying 'When I come to school next year there will be 23 holes in the ground,'" he added. "No, there may be one or two."

Likins said, at this point, the university would not be able to physically sustain 23 more projects.

"We're not planning to build $400 million worth of buildings," Likins said. "We couldn't handle it."

Roberts said construction projects that aren't started during the 2002 and 2003 fiscal years will be pushed off to the following two budget years.

The university has already forecasted another $184 million for construction during the years 2004 and 2005.