CONCORD – House Republican Leader Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett) released the following statement regarding the University of New Hampshire’s announcement last month that implied that funds appropriated by the State Capital Budget (HB25) would be utilized to install lights and other upgrades at the University’s Cowell Stadium. Rep Chandler’s research, confirmed by correspondence with the USNH Chancellor and Treasurer, found that the announcement came more than a month before the USNH Board of Trustees would meet to discuss the proposal this Thursday, October 24th.
House Republican Leader Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett):
“The University System continues to have credibility issues with some of us here in Concord because of a continued pattern of misallocation of state taxpayer dollars. Having lights at the football stadium is not conducive to providing high quality, affordable higher education to New Hampshire students.”
“The decision to prioritize this project ahead of $180million of other requests USNH presented to the Governor and legislature earlier this year was surprising. The decision to use the State’s Capital Budget appropriation to fund this project was surprising. And the decision to announce the project was moving forward more than a month before the Board of Trustees would meet to discuss or approve it was deeply concerning.”
“While it’s up to the Board of Trustees to do what they will with the taxpayer dollars they receive, they should, at the very least, consider better ways to apply these dollars to more positively affect students’ educational experiences. I hope at their meeting this week the Board will discuss a more appropriate use for this money or identify an alternative funding source. They may also want to review their communications policy to avoid announcing things prematurely, and to strive towards more accuracy.”
· In early 2013, USNH presented a plan to the Governor for $180m in capital improvements over the next 3 biennia. These improvements were mostly for academic and other student oriented facilities. (See attached file “UNSH Request for Capital Appropriations”)
· The House version of HB25, the Capital Budget, appropriated $8m to USNH for the biennium. (See attached PDF of LBA’s “Compare Report of HB25” page 9)
· The Senate appropriation matched that $8m, only they appropriated $6m for general use at the discretion of the Board of Trustees and added 2 line items for specific projects
o $1.5m for upgrades to Cowell Stadium at UNH
o $500k for “Hewitt Annex Renovation - NH State Veterinarian Diagnostic Lab”
· During the committee of conference, House members were concerned about these line items and their divergence from the original request of USNH, which dealt mainly with academic/student oriented projects. The line items were removed and the final chaptered version of HB25 contained $8m to be spent at the discretion of the Board of Trustees. Implied was that they’d use the money for projects that may more positively affect academics and student life at NH’s public universities.
· On September 13, UNH Athletics issued a release, linked here, announcing that Cowell Stadium would be undergoing a $1.5m renovation using Capital Budget funds. The release received widespread news coverage across the state.
· On September 19, staff from the House of Representatives inquired with the Treasurer of USNH as to how and when the funds were appropriated. The reply stated, “The USNH Board of Trustees has not approved the full allocation of the $8M FY14‐15 capital appropriation. We can report that $1.5 million will be allocated to the UNH Cowell Stadium lights project and $500,000 to the UNH Vet Lab relocation project, as proposed by Senators D’Allesandro and Rausch, respectively.” (Email attached)
· Concerned that the announcement was happening prior to board approval and the sudden prioritization of Cowell Stadium improvements prompted Rep. Chandler to write the attached letter to Chancellor Leach. (Letter Attached)
· Chancellor Leach’s response on October 4th, acknowledged that the Financial Affairs committee has not yet approved the projects and therefore the full Board has yet to vote on or approve of any capital project. (Email Attached)
· The board is expected to meet and discuss these projects October 24th, nearly a month and a half after the announcement that the renovations of Cowell Stadium were already moving forward.