Governor Joins Gateway President, Others to Push for Plan to Advance Urban Campus, College Projects
$11.25 million worth of work on an urban metro campus in Downtown Covington for Gateway Community & Technical College is part of a proposal unveiled in Governor Steve Beshear's budget.
Beshear joined Gateway President & CEO Dr. Ed Hughes and other Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS) leaders to show their support for the proposed BuildSmart Investment for Kentucky Competitiveness. The idea is to issue $145.5 million in agency bonds to KCTCS to reinvest in campus improvements. The bonds would be supported by KCTCS revenues at no cost to taxpayer revenue in the general fund. It would be the single-largest investment in the KCTCS system since its formation in 1997.
KCTCS leadership brought to Beshear an innovative proposal to use agency bonds for the first time ever to fund up to seventy-five percent of the cost of sixteen critical projects, including the proposed urban campus for Gateway in Covington.
At least twenty-five percent of the remaining cost would come from the local communities and other public or private sources. When paired with the local match, the BuildSmart agency bonds would finance $194 million in construction across the Commonwealth.
“Our community and technical college system is one of our most important tools in building a stronger, more agile and adaptable workforce. Yet, as our campuses have swelled with students, we haven’t been able to keep up with the system’s broad infrastructure needs,” Beshear said Monday. “Through BuildSmart, agency bonds will let KCTCS campuses upgrade facilities to accommodate student needs with no impact to the General Fund. At a time when we are pushing our students to pursue higher education, it’s imperative that they have adequate classrooms and facilities.”
General Fund support for all higher education institutions has been cut 15 percent over the last three biennial budgets, with another 2.5 percent cut proposed in the new budget.
KCTCS has requested budget support for a number of infrastructure needs in the past, but given the scope of need across the 73-campus system, the General Fund can’t cover all the projects. The last three biennial budgets have passed with no new capital improvements in KCTCS.
“BuildSmart Kentucky is an innovative approach to achieve public-private partnerships across the Commonwealth to support higher education and achieve increased access in all parts of the state," said President Hughes in a news release. "What serves one community serves us all in terms of improving economic growth and vitality for all Kentuckians. Gateway supports the plan not only because it contains a provision to help fund the Urban Metro Campus that will strengthen the Northern Kentucky economy but also because it provides the means for communities throughout the state to move forward with much-needed educational improvements.”
Late last week, Hughes asked supporters of the urban campus to contact their state legislators to push for their support for the project.
“The KCTCS BuildSmart Investment for Kentucky Competiveness is about building a skilled, educated workforce to ensure our state thrives in both today’s and tomorrow’s economy, “ said KCTCS President Michael B. McCall. “This investment is a perfect example of a public/private partnership and builds upon the strong connections our colleges have forged with their local business communities.”
KCTCS leadership said debt service will not add to the cost of an education in any meaningful way.
“Given the low costs of borrowing, now is the ideal time to invest further in education, and there is no doubt that these projects are needed. By including local support, we can stretch our state tax dollars even further,” said House Speaker Greg Stumbo.
Photo: Monday's news conference/KCTCS