The University of Saskatchewan now has the cash to complete its many infrastructure projects thanks to an agreement with the provincial government that put nearly $95 million at the university’s disposal.
The provincial government failed to provide the necessary funding for the university’s many capital projects earlier this year, leaving the university to fund projects through loans.
The decision was approved in the legislature Sept. 5 for the U of S to be approved to borrow up to $94,760,000 to fund projects from April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013.
University provost and vice-president academic Brett Fairbairn said that the university approached the government with the funding issue and received a borrowing scheme in return.
“The university initiated the request because we need the capital funding but the decision of what form it comes in, and that it comes in the form of borrowing, is really more the government’s issue,” Fairbairn said.
The university will be borrowing directly from banks and other sources on the understanding that the government has given the green light.
“It won’t be directly the government that is lending the money, or directly to the government that we will repay it,” Fairbairn said.
The university will accumulate more debt and will discuss the payment requirements year by year with the Saskatchewan government.
The bulk of the money will be earmarked for the continued construction of the Health Sciences Building while remaining funds will be used to replace major pieces of the university’s heating plant.
“All of our buildings need to be functional. Many of them are aging and we do need to address some of these critical bits of deferred maintenance.”
Those critical infrastructure pieces will account for roughly $15 million of the borrowing allowance.
Fairbairn said that the entire Health Sciences project will cost in excess of $300 million while the completion of the D and E wings this year will cost over $70 million, which will constitute the majority of the borrowing.
Fairbairn assures that the expenses are necessary and beneficial for the university.
“It is one of the most exciting building projects in the country and will really give the University of Saskatchewan a leading edge in teaching and research.”
The provincial government, to date, has contributed $213 million to the project.
“The government has always said that the Health Sciences project is a shared responsibility,” Dave Boehm, assistant deputy minister of post-secondary education, said.
The university’s borrowing will be its contribution to the project, Boehm said.
The StarPhoenix reported last week that Cam Broten, advanced education critic for the opposition NDP, said that the Saskatchewan Party shifting the university’s funding from direct capital to a borrowing scheme is breaking promises made during the campaign.
“Before the provincial election, the Sask. Party government promised to provide funding for the Health Sciences Building,” Cam Broten told the StarPhoenix.
“I think this [agreement] really shows that they’re breaking their earlier commitments to fund the whole project up front.”
Correction 09/28/12: An earlier version of the story was published and reported that “The provincial government claims the $213 million they’ve given to the project so far will fulfill its obligation of supporting the U of S on the project.” This was not accurate and the Sheaf regrets the error. The province has contributed $213 million to date towards the Health Sciences project and says it will continue to fulfill its further funding obligations if necessary. We also quoted Bill Stovin, the acting director of communications for the Ministry of Advanced Education, in the earlier version. It was Dave Boehm, assistant deputy minister of post-secondary education, who spoke to the Sheaf exclusively.
Photo: Raisa Pezderic/The Sheaf