New chemistry labs won’t be seen on campus anytime soon if state lawmakers approve the current version of the 2015-17 capital budget.
With the exception of the proposed Chemistry Building project, the State Building Commission approved all the University of Wisconsin campus projects Gov. Scott Walker recommended in his capital budget.
The UW projects Walker recommended — and the building commission went along with last month — include the Rec Sports renovation of the South East Recreational Facility.
But the Chemistry Building renovation was not on that list. UW officials are still hopeful state lawmakers can add the chemistry renovation to that list during the lengthy budget approval process.
The commission’s proposals now await the approval of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, which will then send their version to the full Legislature before the capital budget finally lands on Walker’s desk.
William Elvey, UW’s vice chancellor for facilities planning and management, said he hopes the Joint Finance Committee might recommend the project if they receive positive state revenue projections.
“Chemistry has been the number one project for the last biennium and this biennium,” Elvey said. “We want to see it funded preferably now in this budget request.”
While he said the Chemistry Building renovation is important, Student Services Finance Committee Chair Devon Maier said he is pleased the State Building Commission approved projects that are most important to students, such as the Rec Sports renovations.
He said SSFC will continue to lobby the Joint Finance Committee to ensure they approve the Rec Sports renovations.
“The process played out pretty well and while there were some disappointments for campus, they did a pretty good job making sure projects students saw as priorities were put forward and weren’t slowed down by any legislative pressure,” Maier said.
Maier said the Chemistry Building renovation might have been deferred because commission members were not given adequate time to make an informed decision about a project requiring so much funding.
The project would have required almost $107.8 million in state-issued bonds.
But Elvey said the cost of the chemistry addition will only continue to increase with inflation. He said even if the Joint Finance Committee denies the request, the Chemistry Building renovation and addition will still remain a top university priority.
If the renovation is denied, he said, UW will have to work with the UW System to determine a plan of action.
He said one option is to simply include the Chemistry Building project in the next capital budget request. Either way, he said the university will probably be obligated to look at raising some of its own funding.
While university officials view the chemistry renovation project as vital to the campus master plan, Maier said he is not concerned the plan will be inhibited in the long term.
“In the next biennium, I would hope the State Building Commission would be in agreement once everything is vetted to their standard,” Maier said.
Elvey said the approved campus projects were ones using existing state bonding authority, meaning the state will not have to issue any new bonds.
With the SERF and Near West Field renovation passing through another checkpoint, Rec Sports Director John Horn said he is pleased with the progress of the project.
“We still have a lot of work to do — we have to get through the Joint Finance Committee — but hopefully we can keep the momentum going forward,” Horn said.