Trustees sign off on $888 million spending plan

By Sam Hayes

$888 million has been dispensed to the University of Massachusetts by the Board of Trustees for a variety of improvements, including earmarked projects as well as new construction, according to the recently released UMass five-year capital plan.

The plan reaches all five campuses in the UMass system, with a total of $2.6 billion for the next five years. Over the past decade only $1.9 billion was spent on similar improvements.

The capital plan hopes to update the university’s facilities. 68% of UMass Amherst’s facilities were built in the 1960s and 70s while another 25% dates back to before 1950.

University Spokesmen Robert Connolly said that one can see improvements “most vividly in Amherst, where you see the fruits of a lot of renovation projects, and also many new facilities, ISB (the Integrated Sciences Building), the Studio Arts building, the new student recreation center and the new dorms.”

Although the trustees plan to spend $2.63 billion, the “total need identified” in the next five years is over $1 billion more, at $3.7 billion.

UMass was able to get over $1 billion in capital investment from the Higher Education Capital Improvement Act, as well as $250 million from the Life Sciences Industry Investment act.

The capital plan calls for more improvements, using an “unprecedented” amount of borrowed funds to do it. UMass borrowed $1.27 billion from the Health and Educational Facilities Authority (HEFA) and the University of Massachusetts Building Authority (UMBA).
As of June 30, UMass’s debt was $1.38 billion. UMass’s annual debt service, or the amount that UMass is required to pay per year to pay off the debt, will rise from $110 million to $138 million.

A definite need for improvement can be found in deferred maintenance, compliance, repair and replacement of existing infrastructure according to the plan, as well as “new construction for academic and research facilities, student housing, recreation & campus centers, and auxiliary activities such as parking and dining facilities.”

UMass Amherst will complete 97 projects by 2014, costing more than $1.1 billion. Also, the school will attempt to attract new faculty by improving facilities, which will “result in research growth and increased student demand,” according to the report.
Other problems listed in the report pertaining to the Amherst campus included 27% of science or engineering spaces rated “poor,” a shortage of academic space limits, enrollment and the large residential population’s wear on the facilities.
New improvements expected on the UMass campus include: A new science building, an addition to the Totman kinesiology building, enclosures for the tennis courts, new solar panels, a Worcester dining common overhaul, purchasing new property and about 30 other multi-million dollar renovations.

Aside from the proposed buildings, a variety of research or teaching projects are also part of the plan.

Sam Hayes can be reached at [email protected]