Question of the week: Why doesn’t NAU divert its construction dollars into its operating budget to help offset NAU’s deficit?

There are a few construction projects under way on campus and a few more in the pipeline.

The funding for them comes from different sources and will be an investment in NAU’s future.

In finalizing the FY09 budget, the Legislature authorized Arizona’s universities to move forward with their respective plans to make much-needed repairs to aging buildings and stimulate the economy by boosting the construction industry.

Arizona Lottery revenues will fund 80 percent of the Stimulus Plan for Economic and Educational Development, or SPEED. The universities will fund the remaining 20 percent.

NAU President John Haeger calls the SPEED legislation an economical method for attaining much-needed repairs and a way of preparing the campus for the future.

Work is already under way on two SPEED projects that were approved and reviewed by the Joint Committee on Capital Review in November: the North Union project, which will replace the roof and upgrade the electrical system; and the north campus infrastructure project, upgrading the campus boiler plant, sewer lines and tunnels, all of which are deteriorating quickly.

The other projects on NAU’s approved list are the renovation for lab space and classrooms in the Hotel and Restaurant Management building, the renovation of the first and second floors of the Liberal Arts building (the third floor already has been renovated); and the fire life safety renovation of the Skydome, including other improvements to the facility.

These projects have yet to have final review by the JCCR.

The SPEED package authorized by the Legislature was lowered from $1 billion to $800 million for NAU, ASU and U of A.

The plan once authorized construction of a new health professions building, Ardrey Auditorium renovation and additional classrooms, but legislators eliminated some of projects, and no new construction is included in the SPEED budget.

A separate project, the new Recreation, Health and Wellness Center, is being funded through student fees, approved by students in fall 2007. The project will expand the recreation center by adding 42,600 square feet, providing physical health, mental health, rehabilitation and recreational services.

Student fees must be used for the stated project.

Another capital project—the addition to the School of Communication building that will house Distance Learning—kicked off before the state’s budget was in its current predicament. This project is funded primarily through a special Technology and Research Initiative Fund allocation from the Arizona Board of Regents.

Earlier this year, the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians announced its contribution of $2 million to NAU for designing and building a Native American cultural center on its Flagstaff campus.

The cost for building the center is $6 million. The university had already made a commitment to match tribal and private funds up to $3 million.

The project remains in the early planning stages.