President Randy Dunn and the University Board of Regents are handling a certain $4 million in the proposed state budget with steady hands.
While most state institutions prepare for future woes in light of Gov. Steve Beshear’s proposed 6.4 percent cut to education, that $4 million was allocated for the replacement of the Breathitt Veterinary Center, a diagnostic data center in Hopkinsville, Ky.
The Center is part of the Hutson School of Agriculture.
Most administrators and Board members say they are thankful for the additional funding, but confused as to why the University’s veterinary center received it.
In comments at the quarterly Board of Regents meeting on March 2, Dunn said it was important that the University give legislators the impression the project was not a University measure.
“We cannot have this being seen as Murray State’s project for the next three biennia,” he said. “Nobody gets anything this time except us at this point.”
The governor included the $4 million to fund the acquisition of a new property near the existing site adjacent to Hopkinsville Community College.
Dunn said he and Bob Jackson, associate vice president of Institutional Advancement, traveled to Frankfort, Ky., for Beshear’s biannual budget address. He said they were surprised minutes before the speech by a gubernatorial staffer who said the funding would be included in the governor’s standard priorities.
Typically, funds allocated in those areas imply urgency to finish a project soon, Dunn said – even though the replaced Breathitt Center was not at the top of the University’s capital funding list.
The completion of the engineering and physics building as part of the Science Complex has topped the University’s list for several years.
Since the meeting, Dunn has said the University will not take any immediate steps to reverse the governor’s decision or change its priorities to better suit the budget that passed through the House with the $4 million this week.
“We thought it was the case that we should leave that language alone and not try to change that to a renovations proposal,” he said. “Given the fact that it came up so quickly and without warning, there clearly is political sentiment for a new building and we felt if that was the case, it was not wise for us to change that to a renovation project.
He said a new Breathitt would be likely.
“If that passes in this budget, we’ll assume that we’re going to see a new building because we’re going to get started at looking at property and getting drawings going for a new building,” he said.
At the Board meeting, Jack Rose, faculty regent and chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee, said he thought it was important that the University not give the impression that it did not want the funds.
Rose said he had been a part of unofficial talks at the West Kentucky Night event late last year and had heard rumor that the University of Kentucky planned to consolidate veterinary services at the Lexington, Ky., campus.
“We need to put together all the brain power and political power we can to make sure the Breathitt Center is not basically moved to UK,” he said after the meeting.