Sept. 22, 2011

Second phase of biorenewables complex moves forward

by Anne Krapfl

The second phase of the Biorenewables Complex -- two wings to house the agricultural and biosystems engineering department -- received another green light from the state Board of Regents Sept. 20. The board approved the project description and $74.5 million budget, which includes $60.4 million in state funds over four years and $14.1 million in private gifts.

Iowa State will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for phase two at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, at the building site between Howe Hall and the College of Design. Following board approval of a schematic design, construction could begin early in the new year.

Phase two includes a research and teaching wing and Elings Hall, an office and classroom wing named for Engineering alumnus Virgil Elings of Santa Barbara, Calif., who committed $5 million for the project in 2006.

Student fee refund

The board also approved Iowa State's proposal to refund students the fall semester portion of the mandatory 2011-12 recreation fee that was to cover the State Gym remodel and new construction debt. The refunded amount, $89.95 for a fulltime student and proportional for part-time students, will be credited to students' U-bills by the end of this month. The refund was necessitated by the delay in the facility opening, from fall to spring semester.

2010 flood update

Vice president for business and finance Warren Madden told the board that recovery and mitigation projects following the Aug. 11, 2010, flooding of Squaw Creek cost $41.5 million. Following reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and ISU's insurers, he estimated that the final out-of-pocket cost to the university will be about $6 million, some of which will be absorbed by auxiliary units such as the residence and athletics departments. Madden said the recovery projects essentially are completed, with the exception of the track surface in the Lied recreation center. A final decision hasn't been made about its usability.

Early FY13 budget request

By law, the board must submit funding requests for next year to the state by Oct. 1. The governor and Legislature use the requests in building their proposed state budgets. As approved by the board Tuesday, the regents' appropriation requests for Iowa State for the year that begins July 1, 2012, include:

  • A general education incremental funding increase of 4 percent ($6.6 million) to return to FY11 funding levels
  • Incremental funding in several direct appropriations to address ISU strategic plan initiatives: Agriculture Experiment Station ($1.2 million), Cooperative Extension ($767,296), Leopold Center ($17,001) and livestock disease research ($7,394)
  • Incremental funding of 4 percent ($96,972) for existing economic development units (ISU Research Park, IPRT, Small Business Development Centers) and an additional $1 million to expand economic development efforts
  • Strategic funding for the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab ($762,364) and restoring STEM initiative funding for the three universities to $4 million annually (about $2.3 million this year)
  • New funding ($7.5 million at the three universities) for a renewable energy and value-added agriculture initiative

Salary increases typically are provided in a separate salary appropriation; the regents' request is that regent employees' salary increases be fully funded in that legislation.

Grow Iowa Values Fund

Due to a reduction in the FY12 state appropriation (from $5 million to $1.5 million), the university's Grow Iowa Value Funds this year are $576,000 instead of $1.75 million. From 2006 through 2015, the funds are intended to support entrepreneurship, the commercialization of technologies and business development with the long-term goal of economic development in the state.

The board approved Iowa State's proposal to put $500,000 into a competitive grant program ($50,000 increments, up to $100,000) aimed at accelerating the number of new Iowa companies by funding market research, mentoring and other startup services. The goal is to more quickly move new technologies to pilot-scale production. The remaining $76,000 will support staff and programming to expand and improve technology transfer efforts (in Iowa State's System for Innovation under the vice president for research and economic development umbrella).

In other action, the board approved Iowa State proposals to:

  • Complete $130,000 of external improvements and $245,000 of internal upgrades to the Knoll before president Gregory Geoffroy's successor moves in. Madden told regents the work should be done by Jan. 1.
  • Revise the restricted funds portion of ISU's FY12 budget, adding $760,000 for campus building repairs to address fire safety needs and compliance issues with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Due to the timing of the Iowa bill, this amount wasn't included in the budget the board approved in August. The revised ISU restricted funds budget is $592,358,374.
  • Seek $4 million in state funds next year to begin planning to construct a new biosciences building. As proposed, additional state funds of $36 million would be supplemented with $20 million in private gifts for the facility.