$170 Million Campus Renovation gets OK from Kent State Trustees
Proposal to create new student fee to pay for renovation is eliminated from plan
Within a year, Kent State University's main campus will be in the midst of a $170 million renovation thanks to action taken by its board of trustees Wednesday.
The Kent State University Board of Trustees approved issuing $170 million in 30-year, general receipt bonds Wednesday afternoon to pay for the renovation of the now 101-year-old main campus. The vote follows about three years of discussion over a campus renovation plan that, at one time, carried a $250 million price tag.
Kent State President Lester Lefton called Wednesday a historic day due to the passage of the bonds.
"There will be new buildings, there's no question about that," Lefton said. "It will probably be 10 to 12 months before there are shovels in the ground. Inside of two and-a-half years this place is going to start to look very different."
What colleges those new buildings will house and where on campus they will stand won't be decided for at least the next four to five weeks as both board members and university administrators finalize the renovation plans. The new buildings will be within the existing campus footprint.
Lefton said the bonds will be paid for through alternative funding within the university's operating budget, so some programs may be cut and other monies reallocated to pay for the renovation.
Previous incarnations of the plan called for the creation of a new student fee to pay for the construction bonds. Lefton said the university abandoned the idea of using a student fee to pay the costs, and that led to borrowing less through bonds.
"This doesn't really allow us to complete as many projects as we would like to," he said. "We originally planned to do as much as $250 million. We are trying to prioritize the projects we are working on to ensure the impact on students is greatest."
Kent State Trustee Steve Colecchi said the board is confident growth in enrollment and cost containment will make resources available to pay back the bonds.
"This overall proposal has and will continue to require reprioritization from other areas of the university budget," Colecchi said.
Details were scarce Wednesday, but Lefton said the renovation will likely include components from the previous proposals.
"We have ideas," he said. "Clearly there are projects everyone knows have been on the drawing board for some time, not the least of which is architecture, art, technology."
Specifically, Lefton pointed to upgrades planned for classrooms in McGilvrey and Henderson halls because thousands of students use those classrooms during their time at Kent State.
"Our approach has been to say 'what needs health and safety first, where are the students going,'" Lefton said.
Aside from new buildings, some of the planned renovations are less glamorous updates to HVAC systems and to make buildings — some of which date to the 1950s — compliant wit the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The trustees initially approved issuing bonds to renovate the campus in November 2009, but that approval expired in November 2011. Wednesday's approval gives Kent State administrators until December 2013 to issue a maximum $170 million in bonds for construction.
Jacqueline Woods, chair of the Kent State trustees board, said the board agreed it can no longer ignor deferred maintenance and other infrastructure necessities.
"We’re making some tough decisions not the least of which is a major 30-year commitment in our budget in order to go forward," Woods said after the meeting. "It represents the university’s single largest reinvestment in its academic infrastructure."