Posted on May 14, 2019
ODESSA — The University of Texas of the Permian Basin has asked the legislature for more than the $39 million it usually receives — hoping to improve staff and faculty recruitment and retention, upgrade and renovate facilities and infrastructure and improve the overall quality of life on the campus.
UTPB President Sandra Woodley said the university needed extra money to be able to accomplish its campus transformation project — which she hopes to complete by UTPB’s 50th anniversary in 2023 — so she requested $4 million for the biennium, $4.6 million in lab equipment and $40 million in tuition revenue bonds.
At the State of Education event on March 6, Woodley described the session as “not horrible-looking,” though she said the Senate did cut off some of the special item funding from the budget.
“I guarantee I need every penny in that budget to be able to move the university forward and then some,” Woodley said at the event.
This past week, she told the Reporter-Telegram she is optimistic about the session. Until state leaders pass legislation and the governor signs those bills, Woodley can only discuss what she hopes UTPB will look like in the next five years.
$4 million in operating expense.
Woodley said she asked the legislature for $2 million each year of the biennium to help with operating costs. This primarily will go toward the recruiting and retaining of faculty and staff.
The Permian Basin provides great economic benefit to the community, she said, but sometimes it is hard to bring staff and faculty to the area.
“With the cost of living in the Permian Basin, and the high cost of housing and shortage of housing, it is taking higher levels of salary for the people we are recruiting to come in here and stay,” Woodley said. “We also have to find a way to make sure we are competitive in our salaries for existing faculty that have been loyal to this university over a period of time.”
Woodley said she wants to do anything to help and ensure long-term comfortability for her faculty and staff — so there will also be community efforts, which includes the possibility of a private-public partnership that would add housing for staff and faculty on, both, the Midland and Odessa campuses.
She said she believes this will help alleviate staff and faculty from the tight housing market that hinders the university’s ability to recruit and retain.
$4.6 million in capital expense.
The request of $4.6 million in capital was made for laboratory equipment to outfit the new engineering building, which will open in the summer, she said.
On April 1, state Rep. Tom Craddick told the Reporter-Telegram he added three floor amendments, including one for engineering laboratory equipment that appropriates $2.298 million in both fiscal years, 2020 and 2021.
He said the lawmakers expanded dollars for engineering courses in the last legislative session, and this year’s revenue will help ensure the school has the equipment once the new building opens.
“That is really needed,” Craddick told the Reporter-Telegram. “We have to have the equipment.”
$40 million in tuition revenue bonds.
For the renovation and restoration of the Mesa Building — the oldest and largest building on campus — Woodley said she requested $40 million in tuition revenue bonds.
This will be the beginning stage of the campus transformation project, she said. UTPB will make some cosmetic changes to the building — but there will also be upgrade to equipment and technology in classrooms, as well as the remediation of deferred maintenance issues.
“To renovate what is really about half-a-century-old building, there are a lot of needs,” Woodley said.
She said they will have to remediate the ceilings from asbestos, which could be a “very expensive proposition.” There are also needs for new lighting, new ceilings, new flooring and new bathrooms.
One of the more noticeable changes will be the remodeling of the front lobby to make it more inviting, she said. There will be transformations to the entry way and the signage, as well as some outdoor walking paths that take students and staff straight to the quad.
“We also want the bottom floor to be a one-stop-shop for student services to make sure when they register for classes, (go through) the financial aid process, (go to) all counseling services, they are all readily available to them,” Woodley said. “But we also want the classrooms to have modern furniture and technology to heighten the learning opportunity for our students.”
There also will be an upgrade to the deck on the second floor of the Mesa Building that looks over the quad, she said, and any remaining money will go to the transformation of the quad itself, which she described as an active location on the campus.
She said she hopes to build an outdoor amphitheater — where the dance team or ballet dancers can perform, or students can listen to music — but to also provide more shading for students to sit-around and study in.
In future legislative sessions, she said she hopes to remediate all facilities — because even the newer buildings still require upkeep and maintenance and even a technology upgrade.
To meet the needs for the region, she said UTPB will need to double in size between the next 10 to 15 years, so all existing facilities need to be properly maintained, and there may be a need of additional academic buildings as well.
“We are not asking for all the money that we will ask for, for the campus transformation,” Woodley said. “That is a project we will have ongoing for three to five years and will include outdoor green spaces, parks, enhancing walking trails at the Odessa and Midland campus and modernizing the classrooms as well. We think the quality of life aspect is really important.”
The plan is to begin the process of creating more green spaces this year, she said. This includes on-campus parks and lit walking trails, as well as a 26-mile walking trail — tentatively called the Wildcatters Trail — connecting the two campuses.
UTPB will partner with the cities of Midland and Odessa parks departments and other community partners to do so. She also said officials will raise private dollars for this part of the transformation.
“We’re looking at totally transforming our campus, both, in function and aesthetics to outfit this university to be able to grow and strengthen our programs over the next 10 to 15 years,” Woodley said.