Funds to fix campus

By Gus Bode

They may not be able to navigate Faner Hall or know the best places on campus to take a nap, but the freshman class of 2007 is saving the university’s crumbling structures.

Five years without state capital funding has left SIUC with about $400 million in deferred maintenance. This means leaky roofs, falling ceilings and crumbling structures all over campus. But the Facility Maintenance Fee, charged to all students who have come to the university since August 2007, brought in $1.9 million its first year and some university officials think the fee could alleviate part of the problem.

Ali Omahen, a freshman from Danville studying athletic training, said she understands why the fee is necessary.


“I have a class in Allyn and that building is falling apart,” she said.

Because of the Guaranteed Tuition Stabilization Plan, which guarantees a set tuition rate throughout a student’s four years at the university, this fee could not be charged to students already enrolled with the university when it was implemented. It will therefore be phased in over four years. Phil Gatton, director of plant and service operations, said the fee should bring in about $6.2 million in 2011 when the program is fully implemented and the majority of SIUC students are paying it.

The fee, which is $12 per credit hour this school year, will increase about 3 percent every year.

“The president’s office has asked us to come up with a plan and work with the academic areas for priorities of how that fee should be spent,” Gatton said.

He said he met with the deans of each college in December to determine their hopes for the fee, but the top priorities on the deferred maintenance backlog are about $8 million in roofs needed all over campus.

Gatton said recent increases in utility costs have contributed to the problem.

“Our budget has stayed flat since 2001, yet cost has increased,” he said.


Gatton said some of the money from the fee has been used to pay off about $2 million in utility deficit, but SIU President Glenn Poshard said he would like to see that money directed more toward deferred maintenance as the fee brings in more money.

“We’re not getting capital renewal, so the deferred maintenance keeps getting larger,” Poshard said. “We’re not getting capital, so we can’t build new buildings or renovate our buildings, like the library, sufficiently.”

He said the cost of utilities has been incredible and PSO has been using the fee to cover that and deferred maintenance.

“That’s ridiculous,” Poshard said. “The utility bills have eaten up a sizeable portion of that fee and, until we get a capital bill, we can’t resolve that issue.”

Gatton said the Physical Plant budget and utilities budget have been separated and the utilities are paid by the central administration.

State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Carbondale, said it is more than likely the capital plan will not move forward from the House of Representatives for a number of reasons. This will be the sixth consecutive year the university has not received these funds.

Poshard said nlack of funding has greatly increased his concern about being able to keep up with the kinds of classrooms and laboratories that are needed to maximize learning.

“When you don’t have the ability to build new buildings with capital funds and when you don’t have the ability to repair older buildings with capital renewal funds that are adequate, what you’re doing is endangering the teaching and learning environment,” Poshard said.

Kurtis Weiss, a freshman from Lake Zurich studying accounting and financing, said he the fee and the deferred maintenance backlog are ridiculous.

“How is this a problem when they put up $83 million for a football stadium?” he said.

Gatton said capital funding is not the university’s only option for maintaining campus structures.

“They’re also discussing the possibility of borrowing $25 million by 2010 and using some of these funds to pay back that debt,” Gatton said.

Duane Stucky, vice president for financial and administrative affairs, said the completed 10-year plan to issue $25 million in bonds in 2010 has not gone to the SIU Board of Trustees yet. Poshard has approved the plan, Stucky said.

“Instead of using the maintenance fee each year and addressing the amount of deferred maintenance that would allow you, it was decided that we want to make more progress in the next two or three years,” he said.

Stucky said selling bonds is the way universities borrow money by having multiple people buy bonds and the university agreeing to pay them back.

“We would sell some bonds so there would be a significantly larger amount of funds available for deferred maintenance and that would give us a jump start,” Stucky said. “What you’re using is some of the maintenance fee you would have collected years later to fund that.”

Barton Lorimor contributed to this report.

Brandy Oxford can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 255 or

[email protected].