University at Buffalo administrators have pegged the university’s capital needs over the next five years at more than a half a billion dollars.
But given recent spending trends in Albany when it comes to capital projects at public colleges and universities, UB officials have drastically altered their expectations.
Laura E. Hubbard, UB’s vice president for finance and administration, said the university will make do for now with an adjusted plan that calls for $41 million in capital spending on eight projects at the North Campus in Amherst and the South Campus on Main Street in Buffalo.
Hubbard discussed the revised plan during a meeting of the UB Council on Monday in Capen Hall.
Hubbard said the State University of New York has been operating under spending restrictions because of the state’s Debt Reform Act of 2000.
“It really put a clamp on what we were able to do in terms of capital,” Hubbard said.
This year, for example, the state allocated $49 million for “critical maintenance” needs at UB, but the university ultimately was authorized to spend less than half of those funds, $23.5 million.
“There’s a queue (of projects) actually that’s much larger than they can pay,” said UB President Satish K. Tripathi.
UB’s adjusted five-year capital plan includes $26.4 million for projects on North Campus and $14.6 million for projects on South Campus.
The university won’t make any new requests for funding downtown, where a $375 million School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is currently under construction.
The state is providing about $90 million toward the new medical school.
Under the new fiscal realities, SUNY has suspended its traditional five-year planning model in favor of a year-to-year plan, Hubbard said.
It also means UB will now have to pursue some of its proposed large projects in phases, including an ambitious plan to remake the center of North Campus, specifically Norton, Capen and Talbert halls.
The “Heart of the Campus” project, approved by the Council in 2009, was estimated at $125 million.
Under the adjusted capital plan, the university will look to do a phase of the project that costs $12.9 million.
Tripathi said advocating for more capital support to renovate and maintain infrastructure will be one of the university’s top priorities in Albany this year.
“These are 50-, 60-, 100-year-old buildings. Some of them are always in need of repairs,” he said.
When the new medical school opens, likely in late 2016 or early 2017, university officials want to move the School of Social Work and the Graduate School of Education from the North Campus to the South Campus.
“Our plan is to take a few buildings down,” Tripathi said. “The campus would become smaller in terms of square footage, but fuller in terms of the number of programs there.”
Cary, Farber and Sherman halls – a series of connected buildings known as the Triads that house parts of the current medical school – are the buildings targeted for demolition.