The Richmond Register

Local News

January 10, 2013

Universities to get their own bonding authority

FRANKFORT — FRANKFORT — It was all fuzzy and warmhearted praise of a new spirit of bi-partisan cooperation Thursday morning at a press conference to announce permission for the state’s universities to issue construction bonds to be repaid from their own funds.

University presidents, a host of lawmakers from both parties and chambers, and Gov. Steve Beshear announced their intention to pass legislation, allowing six universities to issue $363.3 million in bonds to fund renovation or construction projects at no cost to taxpayers of the state General Fund.

When speakers weren’t touting the impact on the state economy and higher education, they were praising the agreement for its bi-partisan support.

University presidents have for years called for the authority that is enjoyed by public universities in as many as 38 other states. Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, has for nearly as many years tried to pass legislation to allow them that authority.

But other lawmakers, principally the Republican Senate, have in the past balked because they said the bonding would count against the state’s bonding capacity and affect the state’s bond ratings.

Even bonds to be repaid by revenues generated solely by the universities from student fees or sales had to be approved by the General Assembly.

But with new Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, standing next to the university presidents, Beshear said lawmakers had agreed on “a great deal for the state.”

The universities, he said, “want to pay for it themselves — as in they don’t want a dime from the state.”

Everyone, university presidents, the governor and lawmakers praised the agreement as an indication of a new bi-partisan spirit.

Stivers, who had discussed the idea with his caucus, said, “It has been well-received.”

Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, who in the past has resisted adding to state debt, said Thursday he has no problem with the new plan.

“In the past, what we did not allow them is to have carte blanche,” Thayer said. “This is a strong business plan linked to revenue of their own.”

The projects reflect the priority capital needs of the universities and a collaborative request from all of them, although only six universities will sell bonds for projects.

Eastern Kentucky University and Kentucky State University currently have no agency-funded projects ready for construction, but their presidents signed the letter in support of allowing funding for projects at the six other institutions.

Among them are $9.2 million for renovation of South Mignon Hall student residence at Morehead State, $22 million for a new honors college and international center at Western Kentucky and $275 million for a new science building, a renovated Gatton School of Business and renovations to the Nutter Training Center and Commonwealth Stadium at the University of Kentucky.

WKU President Gary Ransdell, who has led the fight by the presidents to have their own bonding authority, said the projects can get underway as soon as the requisite legislation passes in the legislature. He said it’s a one-time grant of authority.

Ransdell, like Beshear, praised the cooperative, bi-partisan spirit that allowed all parties to agree and called it “a great opportunity for higher education.” He said the 11 projects “represent the critical need areas on our campuses.”

One of the University of Kentucky projects, the Academic Science Building, will receive $65 million from the UK Athletics department to pay off the $100 million cost. UK President Eli Capilouto said that may be a first and praised UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart.

Post-secondary education has seen its funding from the state cut 15 percent in the past three budgets and the current budget contained no capital projects for the university, even those which would have been paid from university funds without tax dollars.

Morehead State President Dr. Wayne Andrews said the university will renovate Mignon Hall, a student residence hall, as part of its 10-year, $25 million plan to upgrade student residence facilities.

“It’s important for us because these are your children,” Andrews said. He said the last new residence dormitory at MSU was constructed in 1969.

Andrews said he looks forward to a legislative session “where we can work together for the benefit of Kentucky.”

Beshear also said the agreement “truly has been a bi-partisan effort.”

Stivers succeeded David Williams as Senate President after Williams accepted Beshear’s appointment to a circuit judgeship. Stivers has said he wants a different tone in Frankfort, and so far has seemed to go out of his way to do that.

He hosted a lunch for all senators and staffs from both parties Wednesday and, unlike Williams, allowed Democrats to make their own committee assignments.

Andrews said Stivers should be credited with “a change in attitude” which is already felt in the capitol.

“I think Sen. Stivers brings a can-do attitude to the table,” Andrews said.

The other projects contained in the proposal are: Murray State, $15.4 million for renovations and upgrades to several facilities, mostly dormitories; Northern Kentucky University, $45 million for renovation and expansion of the Albright Health Center and $12 million to purchase and renovate a residential facility to house students; University of Louisville, $9.6 million to renovate the student activities center.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • 4-24 UKatWaco1.jpg Wildcats encourage Cardinals to work hard in school

    University of Kentucky student athletes Kastine Evans, a guard on the women’s basketball team, and Jon Hood, a guard on the men’s team, stopped by Waco Elementary School on Wednesday to talk about the benefits of working hard in school.

    April 23, 2014 4 Photos

  • Mayor, commissioner pay changed

    The Richmond City Commission approved 4-1 a new pay scale for the mayor and commissioners at a special-called meeting Wednesday morning.

    April 23, 2014

  • 4-24 Lorenzo McWilliams.jpg Harrodsburg to get old Richmond police mobile computers

    Richmond is donating to the city of Harrodsburg eight of 39 old computers formerly used in police cruisers.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-24 HOSAblooddrive.jpg Health science students organize blood drive

    Aside from the gift cards and free snacks, 50 Madison County high school students have other reasons for donating 35 pints of blood Wednesday to the Kentucky Blood Center at Madison Central High School.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Third student charged in dorm room robbery

    A third person, originally thought to be a robbery victim, was charged Wednesday in connection with an armed robbery that occurred March 30 on Eastern Kentucky University’s campus

    April 23, 2014

  • Bucher Family plant sale starts Friday

    The Bucher Family annual plant sale, a yearly tradition in Madison County for 15 years, will kick off Friday morning.

    April 23, 2014

  • 4-23 Gravestone.jpg In search of the last resting place

    At a popular illegal dump site off Bybee Loop in Waco, two marble grave markers were among some items found there by Pat and Ronnie Aldridge, residents who live about 250 yards from the area.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fiscal court awards EMA bids

    Two more bids were awarded at Tuesday’s Madison County Fiscal Court meeting for the emergency operations agency.

    April 22, 2014

  • 4-23 Peter Crowe.jpg Intoxicated man charged with wanton endangerment

    A 27-year-old Richmond man was charged Sunday with second-degree wanton endangerment after he was found intoxicated and walking with several young children in the Keystone Drive area, according to a Richmond police report.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Absentee voting available for May 20 election

    Walk-in absentee voting for the May 20 primary has begun and will continue until May 19, County Clerk Kenny Barger announced Tuesday at the Madison Fiscal Court meeting.

    April 22, 2014

AP Video
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Should Richmond rezone the southwest corner of Main Street and Tates Creek Avenue to B-1 (Neighborhood Business) with restrictions to allow construction of a financial services office?

Yes
No
     View Results