CHICAGO — Ohio’s universities and community colleges have asked the state to approve $350 million for new capital projects.
The request will be part of the state’s new two-year capital budget, expected to be unveiled within the next several weeks, according to a spokesman from the Office of Budget and Management.
The presidents of all of Ohio’s 37 public universities and community colleges signed the $350 million capital plan, a modest request compared to the past.
The governor indicated he would view the smaller request favorably.
“I think what we were able to achieve in this capital bill is unprecedented,” Gov. John Kasich said during a press conference Wednesday.
The state’s universities and colleges reportedly have a backlog of more than $5 billion of needed repairs and new construction projects. The final $350 million request heeded the governor’s request that state agencies trim capital requests.
Kasich also asked the state’s higher-education facilities to collaborate this year on capital requests in an effort to keep costs down, instead of submitting separate ones.
The universities and colleges formed a seven-member Higher Education Capital Funding Commission led by Ohio State University president E. Gordon Gee.
“College and university leadership took the challenge seriously, and worked in tandem to recommend the capital projects that best reflect an effective and responsible use of the state’s investment,” the funding report said.
Kasich has repeatedly warned that it will be significantly smaller in size than previous ones, and that new construction projects will need to meet an “extremely high threshold.”
The proposed capital plan would give OSU the biggest piece of the pie with $82 million, followed by the University of Cincinnati with $32 million.
The proposal includes $208 million for renovation or maintenance, $97 million for new buildings, $30 million for workforce development, and $15 million for projects that would be structured as public-private partnerships and rely on additional private funding.
Ohio last approved a capital plan in 2008 that covered fiscal years 2009 and 2010.
That plan totaled $1.3 billion and was less than half the size of the previous plan. In part, that was because proceeds from the state’s $5.5 billion tobacco bond sale in 2007 were used to cover K-12 capital projects.
The General Assembly is expected to debate the spending plan and approve it by the summer. Lawmakers will consider a new-money capital bill as well as a capital re-appropriations measure.
Higher-education spending is typically one of the largest pieces of the capital budget. A final plan will also include state agencies’ requests and K-12 dollars.
Budget documents sent to higher-education institutions last fall warned them to be conservative.
“Consistent with Gov. Kasich’s commitment to restrain government spending, it is imperative that the fiscal years 2013-2014 capital bill also be restrained in size,” a memo to the schools said. “The bill will focus on necessary maintenance and upkeep of the state’s current capital assets with an extremely high threshold that would have to be met in order to fund new construction.”