$1.5 million to be distributed

The Capital Budget Work Group will begin reviewing requests and prioritizing projects that will fit into its $1.5 million budget this year.

The committee is comprised of 11 voting individuals and an ex-officio member who does not have a vote toward recommendations but helps mediate meetings if necessary.

Each member represents a different division of the university, and there is one student representative.

Constituent groups include academics, Information Technology, Student Affairs, Clowes Memorial Hall and the athletics department.

Larry Lad, committee member and College of Business associate professor, said each constituent group comes up with a wish list including what it needs or wants in order to improve student learning or overall campus experience.

Lad said the wish lists can include pickup trucks for maintenance, machines in the athletics department, classroom mediation, new furniture for residence halls and academic buildings and renovations to campus buildings.

“It’s an incredibly broad array of requests,” Lad said.  “The bulk of it is around student experience.  It’s about student learning and students’ safety on campus.”

Each year, the group is given a budget predetermined by the Board of Trustees.

“It’s an earmarked amount that tries to grow each year,” Lad said.

One-hundred-thousand dollars of that budget will go toward campus improvements related to the Americans with Disabilities Act, including more wheelchair ramps and Braille at various places around campus. This is an obligation built into the budget every year.

With $7.5 million in requests this year, the committee has to meet and discuss which requests to prioritize in order to stay within the allotted budget.

The committee will discuss and produce a list of recommendations by the end of the semester.

“We never have enough money to meet all of the requests,” said Mary Andritz, committee member and College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences dean. “We’re always looking at what best supports the academic mission since that’s our primary goal.  We want to spread the benefit of the money as far as possible.”

“We want to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people,” Lad said.

The decisions for priority recommendations are the result of discussions about request trade-offs among the diverse representatives, Lad said.

“It is a very open and participatory process,” Bob Marcus, ex-officio, said.  “We really make an effort to have all of the constituents there at the table to make decisions.   It’s a daunting task.”

Criteria for group decision-making and discussion includes student safety and health, learning, the strategic plan and institutional reputation.

“This is such a great example of the campus community working together to make decisions in the interest of the campus community,” Lad said. “It’s the idea of shared governance and shared decision-making. We work toward consensus.  If the whole group can’t agree, then we need to go back and discuss the issue more.”

This year’s list of requests looks much smaller compared to last year’s more than $18 million in requests, with a smaller budget of $1.5 million to spend.

“The number of requests varies each year,” Lad said.  “Some things end up getting taken care of that may not be a capital request.”

Andritz said additional money can sometimes become available.  That way, she said, more requests than what are originally recommended can be funded through other avenues.

Lad said working with this group and helping to make recommendations gives him an appreciation for how actions are carried out on campus.

“They’re hard decisions to make, but the group has worked really well together,” Andritz said.

Marcus said the committee generally makes its decisions and recommendations by the end of March or beginning of April.

The decisions will then go to the president’s cabinet for approval.  Once those are approved, the Board of Trustees will have its main meeting, during which it will approve the university’s entire budget, including capital budget recommendations.

Regardless of what projects end up receiving approval, everyone who submitted a request will be notified of where the budget is going, Marcus said.

“There’s no official release of the budget to campus, but if anyone asks, we’ve got it,” Marcus said.  “It is not confidential. There are no secrets of what’s proposed and no secrets on what is ultimately approved.”