UNC System reassessing $315M capital project plans in wake of coronavirus

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UNC System leaders slowed down plans for more than $300 million in capital projects last week amid concerns about the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis.  

Previous UNC System Board of Governors meeting

At the UNC Board of Governors meeting last week, the board agreed to alter its budget request and is now drafting two different proposals that will be considered in the next few weeks, spokesman Jason Tyson told Business North Carolina. The meeting was held via conference call because of state rules limiting the size of public gatherings.

The original proposal included $314.9 million for capital projects, renovations and repairs at UNC System schools. The Board allocated $186.2 million for priority projects, including $56.4 million for the renovation and expansion of UNC Wilmington’s Randall Library, $25.4 million for the Wey Hall renovation at Appalachian State University and $32.3 million for the second phase of renovations the the UNC School of the Arts’ Stevens Center. 

Critical needs projects at 17 different campuses — 16 universities and the N.C. School of Math and Science in Durham — were allocated $128.7 million for a variety of repairs, renovations and infrastructure improvements. 

“Two budget requests are now in the works,” Tyson says. “One which would involve normal budget requests such as capital projects and renovations and repairs for our institutions, and the other involves items related to or affected by the coronavirus pandemic.” 

Greensboro developer Marty Kotis, who is on the board of governors, pressed officials at last week’s meeting to hold off capital spending while the impact of the virus is studied. At the meeting, he noted that UNC will have to make tough decisions concerning potential refunds for housing and meal fees after thousands of students were dismissed from campuses to prevent a spread of the virus.

On March 17, the UNC System instituted mandatory online classes for all its schools as a means of slowing the spread of coronavirus and cleared campus dorms except for students who were unable to travel home. The system is expected to boost spending on equipment for online education, which may also pressure funds now directed for building projects.

UNC President Bill Roper has said the system expects to have details on its response to the crisis in early April. Decisions are being made by the Board of Governors and state lawmakers, not by individual campuses.

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