University of Hawaii Asks Legislature for $33.5 Million

By Kalani, Nanea | Honolulu Star - Advertiser, January 16, 2014 | Go to article overview

University of Hawaii Asks Legislature for $33.5 Million


Kalani, Nanea, Honolulu Star - Advertiser


The University of Hawaii told lawmakers Tuesday it needs $33.5 million to replenish tuition revenues that have been used to cover salary restorations and increases in a six-year faculty contract.

In return, the university promises to dedicate about half of the money to debt service on revenue bonds to start tackling the university's massive repair backlog.

Deferred maintenance needs a total of $487 million across the 10-campus system, with the bulk of the work needed on the flagship Manoa campus. Officials point to a combination of reasons for the neglected repairs, including downturns in the economy, inability to secure funds from the state, and capital improvement resources being diverted to new construction projects.

UH proposes eliminating the backlog over six years, and repaying the bond debt with tuition over the next 30 years. It needs approval from the Legislature and governor to float the bonds.

"Our approach this year is to say, 'Let's try something different. Let's come in and ask to see if the Legislature and the (Abercrombie) administration will support us taking responsibility for this backlog,'" interim UH President David Lassner told the state House Finance and Senate Ways and Means committees Tuesday.

UH is asking the state to cover two costs tied to its contract with the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, ratified in 2010: $14 million for multiyear salary restorations and $19.5 million for 3 percent raises this year and next year. Lawmakers previously told UH to use tuition for the increases.

Lassner said UH would use the $14 million to issue $212 million in revenue bonds in the first year of its plan. That would wipe out the repair backlogs at all of the campuses, except for UH-Manoa. The university would continue issuing bonds in subsequent years for Manoa.

Some lawmakers questioned UH's ability to take on such a large project, concerns that have been fueled by complaints that Manoa staff are already swamped with routine repairs and construction.

Lassner said UH is reorganizing its facilities branch to handle the influx of work and working on a comprehensive review of current procedures.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie's proposed budget, which lawmakers will use as a starting point, includes $198 million in revenue bonds next year for UH's plan. …

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