by Jordyn Haime, Staff Writer
Though mandatory student fees continue to increase annually, fee-funded auxiliary departments at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), particularly the Memorial Union Building (MUB), are not getting adequate funding needed for maintenance, repair and renovation (R&R).
It’s a pattern Student Body Vice President Jake Adams says is becoming a problem all over campus as buildings continue to age and begin to crumble.
“The MUB, being a very old building, consistently needs more maintenance and more renovation as the years go on, because it becomes older and older,” Adams said.
“This building perhaps is more heavily utilized than a lot of other places on campus,” MUB Director MaryAnne Lustgraaf said. “10-12,000 people a day are coming into the building. And that’s with nothing special going on.”
Auxiliary fee units under UNH’s Responsibility Center Management (RCM) budgeting system include all services funded by mandatory student fees like the MUB, Health & Wellness, student recreation and many others. In addition to receiving funding from fees, these units also generate their own revenue through sales of services like ticketed events.
Per a MUB budget report provided to The New Hampshire by the UNH Office of Business Affairs last updated Tuesday, the MUB received a 30 percent increase in funding for maintenance and R&R this year, bringing that funding from $525,257 up to $685,166, a bump up of nearly $160,000. Lustgraaf said this is due to extra budget carryover from previous years.
There was also a 2.55 percent increase in the mandatory MUB student fee, which went from $392 per year, per student in fiscal year 2018 to $402 in fiscal year 2019. Student fees usually increase by 2-3 percent each year.
Lustgraaf said the MUB’s budget is unique in that 95 percent of its funding comes from the student fee, with minimal revenue coming from sales of auxiliary services.
“We’re limited with how much we can increase the student fee. We need a lot more than we ask for. We’re limited with how much we can ask for because it’s not going to get approved,” she said.
But despite this year’s increase in funding for maintenance, there are still a number of large-scale repairs in the MUB – a 61-year-old building – that need to be addressed within the next 10 years, Lustgraaf said. Some of those major projects include replacing the roof and the building’s electrical system.
“The electrical, technically, is still 1950s. We’ve rewired, redone things in different areas, but there is no one [unit]. There are panels all over the building,” Lustgraaf said. “Over time, the building has been kept up. But the envelope of the building, the roof, the windows, those type of things, eventually you have to do something about it and those are real expensive projects,” Lustgraaf said.
“In the current budget, there’s not enough money in there to do some of the things that we need to do,” Vice President of Business Affairs David May said.
According to May, a number of years ago, the MUB’s annual increase of the student fee did not match that of other auxiliary units, which slowly chipped away at available funds for maintenance and R&R over time. The annual fee increases now mirror the typical increase guidelines, but the MUB still hasn’t recovered from the loss over the years.
The MUB has also been paying off debt from the 1995 addition of the MUB theaters. The amount in debt service taken from the MUB budget this year, according to the aforementioned document, was nearly $622,000. Once that debt is paid off by 2021 or 2022, Lustgraaf says the MUB student fee will be able to remain steady and more money will be funneled into maintenance and R&R to address major projects.
May said the University is looking into conducting an in-depth study of the building to address its maintenance needs, which he hopes will be completed within the next six to eight months. The last time a similar study was conducted, May said, the estimated cost of total repair of the entire building – including the addition of another room twice the size of the Granite State Room – was about $85 million, with minimum upkeep work would come to around $25 million.
If the project were to go through, Lustgraaf and May believe the cost “shouldn’t be all on the back of the students, because this building is heavily used for major university functions also,” Lustgraaf said.
Lustgraaf reiterated that minor repairs are made throughout the year that are funded by the current maintenance and R&R budget, and there are no safety concerns anywhere in the building.
Jordyn Haime can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @JordynHaime.