Priorities needed to fit UH repairs into budget
University of Hawaii officials and legislators should fit campus needs by priority within the campus and the state budget.
Major repairs have been needed at the University of Hawaii's Manoa campus for years, but legislators who toured the campus last week expressed surprise about the specifics. University officials should detail those needs in the upcoming session of the Legislature so priorities can be made for an overhaul.
In 1997, then-UH President Kenneth P. Mortimer called the university system's repair and maintenance backlog a "sleeping giant," caused by more than $100 million in UH budget cuts during the previous eight years. The need was exacerbated by a 2004 Manoa Valley flood that caused nearly $100 million in damage, but it might have taken June Jones' departure as football coach, citing the deteriorated athletic facilities, to gain legislators' full attention.
As we noted earlier in the week, the university asked for $165 million last year to repair its campuses, but received only $40 million. It later was provided with $50 million in supplemental funds, half of what it requested, for repair and maintenance.
The university now is asking the Legislature for $120 million for construction, including $48.3 million to attack needs for repair and maintenance that could amount to as much as $400 million. Senate Vice President Donna Kim said legislators had never been made aware of some of the facility problems cited by Jones.
Virginia Hinshaw, chancellor of the Manoa campus, called it "a tarnished jewel" that needs rebuilding. "Keeping us even is not a good strategy." Thirty-seven buildings have roofs that leak, she said.
Gov. Linda Lingle has prepared a budget that includes only $48.5 million for repair and maintenance of buildings in the 10-campus university system. That falls far short of what is needed. Lingle suggests that private donations should be sought, but that probably would be inadequate.
Kim has asked that UH leaders rate their needs by priority, but legislators will have the more difficult task of determining the priority of those needs among other programs in the state budget.
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