Of the $120 million Gov. David Ige proposes to spend on capital projects at the University of Hawaii in his supplemental budget request, $20 million would go toward renovating and modernizing a 60-year-old library on the Manoa campus.
With its expansive first-floor foyer brightly lit by tall jalousie windows, and its worn pleather armchairs and cubicles, Sinclair Library has morphed from a place to borrow books to an all-night study spot.
Months ago, the campus community haggled over a reduction in operating hours, with students insisting administrators reopen the library as a 24-hour facility.
It became clear to faculty that the library functioned more as a study space, said Kalbert Young, UH vice president for budget and finance. The renovations could allow the building to function more as a student activity center.
UH officials could not be reached Thursday afternoon to elaborate on plans for the library.
Sinclair Library is just one of the many aging UH Manoa buildings contributing to the statewide system’s $745 million deferred maintenance backlog.
Here’s a few UH requests that didn’t make Ige’s proposal:
Here’s a few UH requests that didn’t make Ige’s proposal:
The flagship Manoa campus alone faces a pileup of infrastructural work of $583 million, according to the university’s own capital budget request.
The overall backlog is expected to shrink by $25.6 million on the Hilo and community college campuses by next fiscal year, but Manoa’s backlog is projected to rise to $603 million during the same period.
In his supplemental budget request to the Legislature released this week, Ige also seeks $6.7 million for UH’s operating expenses.
The spending, if approved, would occur in fiscal year 2019, which runs from July 2018 to June 2019.
UH Manoa requires $60-70 million in maintenance “just to stand still,” Young said.
The governor’s budget requests are in line with “what we’ve been pitching for the last four to five years, which is to try and get increased investment into modernizing and contemporizing campus facilities,” Young said. “And this has a larger effect of addressing deferred maintenance issues.”
That’s more than twice the amount of money Ige is seeking from the Legislature.
Prior to this year’s legislative session, the board sought more than $450 million in capital funding and got $155 million from the Legislature for this fiscal year.
Still, Young said he was pleased with the amount of money Ige requested on behalf of UH and noted the university is “getting a decent share of what’s available.”
Six percent of all capital budget requests and eight percent of all operating budget requests in Ige’s proposal were allocated to UH.
Much of the UH capital funding Ige requested was earmarked to various campuses as lump sums, Young said, meaning the university would have the flexibility to use it as it chooses.
The governor sought $76 million to renew, improve and modernize UH facilities statewide. Much of that money would be put toward capital expenses at Manoa, Young said.
Also included in the governor’s supplemental budget is a request for seven permanent jobs and $1.5 million for “facilities maintenance, upkeep and security access at UH Manoa.”
When many of the Manoa campus buildings were constructed, their designs didn’t emphasize security, Young said. Given on-campus security incidents nationally in recent years, priorities have changed.
The university has considered creating a control center that would allow faculty members to see who enters buildings, and what doors are locked or unlocked, he said.
“The facilities are aging and in need of modernization, no doubt,” Young said. “But nobody really pays attention that (building) security is really aging and lagging.”
Ige asked that $22 million in capital funding go to UH community colleges statewide and $2 million be put toward a campus design for the system’s community college in Hilo.
Eleven permanent jobs and $600,000 were requested “to address enrollment growth and campus development” at UH West Oahu, the only campus in the system with consistently expanding enrollment.
Also included in Ige’s budget requests is $620,000 to pay graduate students working on campus.
UH graduate students have called upon legislators several times to establish collective bargaining rights for those employed by the university, in part because of complaints about low pay in a state with a high cost of living.
The university “doesn’t necessarily disagree with” those complaints, Young said, adding, “our request was out of recognition that we want to be competitive.”
Fifteen new positions and $1.2 million are requested to support underserved regions and students, such as Filipinos, veterans and disabled students at UH Manoa and community colleges. Another nine positions and $1.2 million would go to support services such as counseling and tutoring for Native Hawaiian students at UH community colleges, and the Hilo and Manoa campuses.
Ige granted in full UH’s request to seek another $700,000 for the Hawaii Promise Program — a scholarship that pays a residents’ unmet tuition needs after they’ve accepted all available federal financial aid. Only UH community college students are eligible.
The university first requested $2.5 million for the scholarship program during the last legislative session, but ultimately received about $1.8 million. The $700,000 requested by Ige would give UH the amount of scholarship money it originally asked for.
“(State departments) never get everything they ask for, it’s kind of like Christmas,” said Sen. Kai Kahele, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee.
Kahele and Rep. Angus McKelvey, chair of the House Higher Education Committee, toured every UH campus in the state last year. Kahele noted that issues such as deferred maintenance are important to the university, but said he wants to see lower tuition rates for all students, especially residents.
Student tuition rates “will be important on the Senate side,” Kahele said, adding he’s studying alternative governing models of universities at schools on the West Coast.
The university argues tuition is reasonable compared to peer institutions on the mainland and school enrollment is low because of the booming economy, but Kahele said he feels the cost of tuition is at issue too.
He pointed to other student complaints about programs cut and internet access problems at the Hilo campus, and the university’s attempt to cut hours at Sinclair Library. Classes are sometimes cancelled because too few students enroll in them.
“I hate to use the word hemorrhaging, but I really believe enrollment at the University of Hawaii is hemorrhaging,” Kahele said. “It’s now the sixth year of declining enrollment.”
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