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UNM Regents to Consider Bond

By Olivier Uyttebrouck
Journal Staff Writer
    Former student president Kevin Stevenson said he first heard of plans for a new engineering building at the University of New Mexico four years ago when he attended his freshman orientation.
    "Now I'm leaving, and they haven't even broken ground," said Stevenson, who received his bachelor's degree in math last month.
    Stevenson was among those on a tour Thursday showing some of the aged buildings that would be renovated with a proposed $125 million bond issue.
    UNM regents next week will take up the bond issue, which would help pay for a variety of construction and renovation projects, including a new $34 million engineering building.
    UNM plans to finance the bond issue with student fees that will add $280 a year to the cost of a college education by 2009. The fee would be phased in over five years.
    Other projects on the list are largely academic buildings, including a $16 million science and math building to house science labs and computer-equipped classrooms.
    The bond issue also would pay for some non-academic projects. It would provide $10.8 million for a new administration building now under construction at Lomas and University NE and $7.5 million for a planned cancer research and treatment center.
    The first increase of $56 a year for a full-time student will take effect this fall as part of a 9.9 percent tuition and fee hike approved by regents in April.
    One state legislator agreed that UNM needs new academic buildings but opposed using student fees to pay for them.
    "This is pretty creative, but this is not the right way to do this," said Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, R-Albuquerque.
    Arnold-Jones also questioned UNM's decision to consider a sizable student fee increase over the summer, when most students are off campus.
    Rep. Dan Silva, D-Albuquerque, countered that UNM can't rely on the state to pay for improvements to academic buildings.
    "I think it's very commendable that they're doing it on their own," Silva said. Academic buildings are an appropriate use of student fees, he said.
    "The school is for the students," he said. "They need to have well-maintained buildings."
    UNM leaders say surging enrollment has created an unmet demand for science labs and classrooms.
    The school can't wait for legislators to provide the money needed for key construction projects, said Carlos Rey Ramiro, UNM's director of governmental affairs.
    The planned Centennial Engineering Center has topped UNM's state funding request since 2001, Romero said. To date, lawmakers have appropriated $9 million for the project.
    "If we continued on the same trend, it would take five funding cycles to get that done," Romero said.
    David Harris, executive vice president for administration, said UNM has no choice but to finance a bond issue with student fees.
    Tuition and fees provide the only reliable funding source needed to issue bonds, Harris said.
    "There is no other way," he said.
UNM proposed bond issue
    Some key projects to be funded by the University of New Mexico's proposed $125 million bond issue:
  • Centennial Engineering Center— $25 million toward a $34 million structure to replace three existing engineering buildings. UNM now has $9 million in state money for the project;
  • Science and Math Learning Center— $16 million for a new building intended to relieve a shortage of science and computer labs and classrooms;
  • Lobo Center— $10.8 million for a new three-story administrative building under construction at Yale and Lomas. It would house business offices and UNM's Speech and Hearing Sciences;
  • Cancer Research & Treatment Center— $7.5 million to help pay for a new building. UNM now has $34.5 million in state and federal money;
  • Architecture and Planning building— $6.5 million for construction;
  • Biology Department expansion— $5.6 million to obtain $4 million in matching federal funds;
  • Castetter Hall— $4 million to renovate this biology building;
  • Communications and Journalism— $4 million for renovations.
    Forum for UNM Building Bond
        UNM student government leaders will hold a forum on the university's bond plans at 3 p.m. today in the Roberts Room at Scholes Hall. Regents will consider the bond issue at 1 p.m. Tuesday in the Lobo Room at the Student Union Building.