California governor vetoes $50 million in deferred maintenance funding for the CSU

An additional $50 million that the California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees lobbied to include in the governor’s budget earlier this year for necessary repairs across campuses will not be awarded, Gov. Jerry Brown said Saturday.

Brown reduced a potential $200 million set aside for “critical deferred maintenance” at CSU campuses, and an equal amount for the University of California (UC) system, after state property taxes did not exceed an estimated amount in July.

“Given California’s continued economic rebound, we disagree with denying this funding simply because the money involved comes from Pot B instead of Pot A,” said Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) in a press release, referencing the property tax lull recorded in July.

Likewise, the state will not set aside $50 million for deferred maintenance, or needed repairs to campus buildings without funding, at UC campuses, as previously considered.

“Making investments to maintain the state’s aging infrastructure continues to be a major priority for my administration,” said Brown in a letter to the state assembly. “(However,) we should not commit additional General Fund monies of this magnitude when we are facing unanticipated costs such as fighting the state’s extreme wildfires.”

The CSU system has battled a growing backlog of maintenance projects that have yet to be completed over the years, which reached $1.8 billion in March.

“I am disappointed in the Governor’s line-item veto of funds meant for California’s universities,” said Atkins in the press release. “In the budget the Legislature and Governor agreed UC and CSU deserved more funds.”

At SF State, officials reduced a $66.2 million maintenance backlog during the 1990s, only to report an increased $67.3 million by 2000.

“All of the various infrastructure problems told me that I should have been far more prepared on day one to look at the physical plan,” said SF State President Leslie E. Wong, recalling  when he began at the University. “In many ways a new guy gets to say ‘let’s look underground, let’s look at the buildings.’”

Most recently, the University recorded $203 million worth of needed repairs to campus infrastructure, according to an SF State deferred maintenance report from May 2013. Six of the campus facilities, including parts of the Science Building, Creative Arts Building and Gymnasium, were constructed in the 1950s, as well as a number of the residence halls.

“I was quite struck to how much student staff, faculty and donor support have occurred because we’re finally taking care of something that has been neglected for a long time,” said Wong of a recent renovation to the Gymnasium. “It was only by disasters and risks that we had to deal with the Science Building and the gym.”