State USTAR money might not be enough for new buildings

The U is raising money to construct a new building for researchers in the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative to work on campus, but some additional costs might cause a problem once the building is finished.

The Utah State Legislature organized the USTAR program and sets aside $15 million annually for research in hopes it will stimulate economic development and business growth in Utah.

USTAR board members are now discussing where operational and janitorial funds will come from in new research facilities.

The U and Utah State University have been recruiting well-known researchers nationwide for the past two years and were ordered by the Legislature to contribute money for USTAR buildings on each campus.

The U bought a building for USTAR researchers to use until planners can design and construct two separate buildings on campus and has been raising $30 million to help cover costs.

USU donated a previously owned building for USTAR use, but now there is a bill for operations and maintenance costs that wasn’t a part of any budget.

“The Legislature didn’t appropriate money for it,” said Ned Weinshenker, vice president for Strategic Ventures and Economic Development at USU. “I think they assumed that there would be three or four years before they would have (operations and maintenance) expenses.”

At a Board of Trustees meeting in June, Weinshenker said that money for maintenance costs will most likely have to come out of the research budget.

The U is not facing such a problem yet, but this might be an issue once a USTAR building is complete.

Jack Brittain, dean of the David Eccles School of Business, said the Legislature doesn’t usually allocate money for maintenance until a building is complete.

“They wait until they can actually figure out how much it will be,” Brittain said.

Brittain said he thinks USU will go to the Legislature to ask for funding to cover maintenance costs and is just overly concerned about whether it will receive funding.

“They’re in this unusual situation where they donated an existing building instead of money,” he said.

House Majority Leader David Clark, R-Santa Clara, who cosponsored the USTAR bill when it passed through the Legislature, said that USU’s donated building should have come with operations and maintenance costs included.

“When USTAR began, one of the things that was told to us was that most of the costs would come from grant money,” he said.

USTAR researchers bring in grant money from their work, and universities typically receive a portion of that funding.

“Part of this program is to go out and recruit researchers who would bring in grant money, foundation money and commercial enterprises,” Clark said. “That should cover basic facility costs. The money researchers bring in should in a portion cover cost of the building.”

Brittain said he thinks the U will go to the Legislature when operations and maintenance costs for the U are calculated.

However, Clark doesn’t believe there was any intention for the Legislature to pay for those additional expenses, he said.

“This is an issue the U has to be aware of,” said Edward Alter, USTAR board member. “Every time the state allocates money to build, they pay for operations and maintenance (costs).”

Alter said that USU doesn’t have money for maintenance costs, but the money will have to come from somewhere.

“If USTAR doesn’t cover the costs, the only other choice is to make the university pay the cost,” he said.

Brittain said he’s not sure how the situation will turn out but that USTAR might be asked to pick up costs, as in the case of USU.

The U is not likely to face this problem for a few years, although construction on USTAR buildings at the U is expected to begin next fall.

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