Construction of the new science building and renovations to the Sojourner Truth Library will be delayed longer than initially expected, according to SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian.
Christian said while the money for both projects is “still there,” there must be authority to release the money and give it to the campus. However, he said the state has reached their disbursement cap for capital projects this fiscal year, which means the projects will not be authorized this year.
When the administration first heard the news, Christian said they thought the projects would only be delayed by a few months, but now it is unclear, as there are about 80 SUNY projects totalling more than $700 million affected by the disbursement cap.
Another issue impacting the cap is that the state made a “difficult administrative change” when they converted to a new financial system last year, Christian said. The system shift has led completed capital projects on other campuses, which were not closed on the new state financial system, to still appear as projects affecting the disbursement cap.
Christian said they have addressed this problem and others have been working to correct it.
“We’ve talked with our legislators about this and the SUNY system and State University Construction Fund have been working very hard to try to break that log jam,” Christian said. “This is one of the reasons why we’re on pins and needles waiting for the state budget to come out here in the next couple of days, to see whether that piece happens.”
Separate from the disbursement cap, there is a different constraint holding up the plan to build a new residence hall south of the Athletic and Wellness Center. Christian said there is a cap on bonding authority. When beginning a new construction project, the state borrows money, issues bonds and pays them off over “a period of decades,” but by the statute, the state cannot issue bonds of more than 2.5 percent of personal income tax revenues, Christian said.
As a result of the recession, Christian said personal income revenues have decreased, but construction has continued, bringing them close to the bonding cap. Although bonds for residence halls would be paid off by student room fees, they remain part of the overall state bonding cap, which Christian is trying to change.
“We’ve been working with our legislators to try to get residence halls separated out because they’re not paid back by taxpayer revenues and shouldn’t really be part of that,” he said.
Superstorm Sandy also caused additional complications and some policy makers believe SUNY has received much of the state’s funding in the last 10 years and it should be someone else’s turn, which Christian said they have combatted.
“We pushed back and said ‘yeah, there’s been a lot the last 10 years, but look at the previous 20 years when there was no investment,’” Christian said. “So we’re doing a lot of catch up.”
Originally aiming to open the library at the start of the 2014 academic year and the new science building at the start of the winter 2016 semester, Assistant Vice President of Facilities Management John Shupe said they are hopeful the completion dates will only be pushed back a year for both projects.
Information and updates on campus construction are regularly available at newpaltz.edu/construction, and Shupe said they will be updating the page this week.
“These project delays are unfortunate for our campus, but we will do everything possible to advance these important campus projects forward as quickly as possible,” Shupe said.