UK seeking more than $200 million from lawmakers for building projects

lblackford@herald-leader.comJanuary 7, 2014 

Aerial - University of Kentucky Construction

Aerial photo of the University of Kentucky campus taken on Feb. 12, 2013. Photo by Faron Collins

FARON COLLINS

University of Kentucky officials will ask the General Assembly this year for more than $200 million in state aid for new construction on campus, including a law school renovation and a new science research building.

But as UK President Eli Capilouto said in a campus-wide email Tuesday, they're realistic about the current budget situation.

[MORE COVERAGE: General Assembly opens with squabbling | Gov. Steve Beshear calls for changes in taxes in his State of the Commonwealth speech]

"The truth is our compelling case will compete alongside other compelling needs and obligations," he wrote. "Requests for investment in K-12 education, existing obligations to the state retirement system and the expanding Medicaid system alone can more than eat up the modest revenue increase the commonwealth is projecting."

UK officials are most hopeful they can get the legislative nod to start projects with agency bonds, which the school issues and pays back itself. That still requires approval from the General Assembly, but so far legislators have said yes to similarly funded projects, such as the $110 million Commonwealth Stadium renovation currently under way.

To that end, UK will ask for permission to start a $175 million renovation and expansion of the UK Student Center, which would use a combination of agency bonds and private donations.

UK Spokesman Jay Blanton did not rule out a possible increase in student fees to pay for the project, which will include new workout and dining facilities.

A new $45 million parking garage would be built at a location yet to be named on campus, and paid back through parking fees.

UK also will ask permission to float $150 million in agency bonds to continue construction at UK HealthCare, which would use hospital revenues to pay off the debt. That money would pay for the fit-out of two more floors at the new patient bed tower, and new ICU and neonatal facilities in the Children's Hospital.

In addition, Capilouto said UK will ask for state support for the following projects:

■ State bonds to fund most of a new $144 million research building near the College of Pharmacy. State bonds would provide about $100 million of the project, and UK would find the rest, Blanton said.

"The facility will provide desperately needed modern research space to help us remain competitive for world-class talent and federal grants," Capilouto said.

■ $35 million in state bonds for part of a renovation and expansion of the UK Law School. The school would float $30 million in agency bonds for the $65 million project.

■ $25 million in state bonds for deferred maintenance on many of UK's aging buildings.

UK also will request operational dollars through the Council on Postsecondary Education, which has asked for an 8 percent increase in general funding for state colleges and universities to offset five years of budget cuts.

Linda Blackford: (859) 231-1359. Twitter: @lbblackford

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