A recent N&O article that divulged the growing backlog of UNC deferred maintenance and renovation projects has campus officials saying all the right things. UNC President Erskine Bowles has asked campuses to focus on deferred maintenance projects over new construction. While much of the early construction was financed by a $3 billion bond referendum, more recent projects have been funded by certificates of participation (COPs). COPs allow public entities to borrow and build without requiring a public vote. For more on UNC and COPs click here and here.
Bowles’ statement is a nice suggestion. However, considering the state’s unemployment rate, the projected $3 billion budget deficit, and an accumulated $2.1 billion in UNC repair and renovation projects, is there any reason why new construction projects should move forward? Building now without forcing campuses to address deteriorating facilities only worsens existing problems. Campuses have no real incentives to invest in repair and renovation. Policies that reward or punish campuses for facility quality and upkeep might be a step in the right direction.