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AR Voters to See Education Construction Bond Again

Tue August 29, 2006 - Southeast Edition
CEG



FAYETTEVILLE, AR (AP) Officials of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville have a wide choice of projects to be funded by a proposed $250 million higher education bond package.

The campus would get approximately $16 million from the package if it is approved by the state’s voters in the Nov. 7 general election, according to Don Pederson, vice chancellor for finance and administration.

Improvements suggested by leaders on the campus total $353 million. The university has until Aug. 25 to decide.

Gov. Mike Huckabee signed a proclamation to place the bond package on the ballot. The same package failed by 737 votes in December, when voters also overwhelmingly rejected a $575 million road bond package.

“I don’t think this is a slam dunk by any means,” Pederson said. “We need to do a lot to educate people of its value.”

In early August, the Fayetteville campus submitted a list of 12 projects costing $353.4 million to the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The board decided to partially fund one UA-Fayetteville project, construction of a Technology Research Center.

The board recommended that lawmakers fund $318 million in facility improvements and technology upgrades at the state’s 11 public universities and 22 two-year public colleges.

The currently unfunded projects at UA-Fayetteville include a nanotechnology research center, a new plant sciences building and renovations and additions to existing buildings. But university officials don’t anticipate the projects being built soon.

“Some of them could take 30, 40, 50 years,” Pederson said. “It’s taken us a long time to correct some problems now that were identified prior to the 1970s.”

John Murry, associate dean at the College of Education and Health Professions, said most faculty members and leaders recognize that it could take a while to secure funding for their pet projects.

“I think everyone on campus understands the funding restrictions,” he said. “We’re pretty much at the mercy of the state Legislature to provide funding or the university to find a windfall.”