Kansas public universities face $1.2 billion in deferred maintenance on core buildings

Board of Regents praises $45 million in supplemental funding in current budget

By: - December 16, 2022 9:46 am
Kansas Board of Regents members Carl Ice and Jon Rolph sit behind a desk and listen during presentation

Kansas Board of Regents members Carl Ice and Jon Rolph listen during presentation of a report outlining the $1.2 billion cost of addressing maintenance shortcomings of 498 core academic and research buildings in the state university system. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Restoring life safety and functional integrity to nearly 500 academic or research buildings on state university campuses in the Kansas Board of Regents system would cost an estimated $1.2 billion, officials said Thursday.

The Board of Regents annually reviews deployment of approximately $40 million earmarked for deferred maintenance at the public universities, but this new analysis incorporated an extra $45 million allocated by the Kansas Legislature to tackle the facilities backlog.

Lawmakers supplemented university building management budgets this year with grants of $35 million that must be matched with private money raised by the universities. In addition, the Legislature allocated $10 million for demolition of structures that outlived their usefulness.

Chad Bristow, director of facilities for the Board of Regents, said the $10 million appropriation, which included $700,000 for Washburn University in Topeka, enabled universities to get rid of buildings containing 377,000 square feet of space that otherwise would have required $52 million in renovations.

“This is going to help us. It’s great to spend $1 today to save $10 down the road,” said Jon Rolph, chairman of the Board of Regents.

Bristow said the goal of the Board of Regents was to improve condition of 498 “mission critical” academic and research buildings from the current grade of “C” to a “B+.” University buildings included on this report card averaged 50 years of age. Assessments of these structures took into account significance, accessibility, functionality, space utilization as well as a metric capturing overall condition.

“The magnitude of resources needed to overcome, let’s say, under investing in deferred maintenance over the decades is in the billions,” Bristow said.

Wint Winter, a member of the Board of Regents and a former state senator, said progress on campus building maintenance was tied to the Legislature’s ability to finance the work.

The 2023 Legislature and Gov. Laura Kelly convene at the Capitol in January to begin debate on competing requests for a slice of the largest state budget surplus in Kansas history.

“I don’t want to predict a significant problem,” Winter said, “but I think we ought to be practical and realize that our ability to get more funding from the Legislature is really the key to being able to hit these needs.”

Doug Girod, chancellor at the University of Kansas, said focus of the Board of Regents’ conversation was on the subset of core academic and research buildings. The bigger picture would include entirety of 1,147 buildings in use on state university campuses in Kansas, he said.

The replacement value of all buildings in the Board of Regents’ system was estimated to be greater than $7 billion, officials said.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International.