October 28, 2013

Higher education leaders pitch bonds

Two bonds back work at UMaine and community college campuses.

By Noel K. Gallagher ngallagher@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Today's poll: Education bonds

Do you support the higher education bonds on the November ballot?

Yes

No

View Results

click image to enlarge

An architect’s rendering of the proposed ABS Center for Engineering, Science and Research at Maine Maritime Academy. Maine voters will decide whether to help finance the building on bond Question 4 in the November 5 election.

Courtesy of Maine Maritime Academy

EDUCATION BONDS ON NOV. 5 BALLOT

QUESTION 2

BALLOT LANGUAGE: Do you favor a $15,500,000 bond issue to enhance educational and employment opportunities for Maine citizens and students by updating and improving existing laboratory and classroom facilities of the University of Maine System statewide?

TOTAL COST: Total estimated lifetime cost is $18.91 million, representing $15.5 million in principal and $3.41 million in interest (assuming interest at 4 percent over 10 years.)

PROCEEDS: The bond money will pay for renovations, upgrades, and equipment at all campuses, mostly in science labs.

QUESTION 4

BALLOT LANGUAGE: Do you favor a $4,500,000 bond issue to provide funds for a public-private partnership for a building project for a new science facility at the Maine Maritime Academy to be matched by other funds?

TOTAL COST: Total estimated lifetime cost is $5.49 million representing $4.5 million in principal and $990,000 in interest (assuming interest at 4 percent over 10 years.)

PROCEEDS: The bond money would help finance the construction of a new science building.

QUESTION 5

BALLOT LANGUAGE: Do you favor a $15,500,000 bond issue to upgrade buildings, classrooms and laboratories on the 7 campuses of the Maine Community College System in order to increase capacity to serve more students through expanded programs in health care, precision machining, information technology, criminal justice and other key programs?

TOTAL COST: Total estimated lifetime cost is $18.91 million, representing $15.5 million in principal and $3.41 million in interest (assuming interest at 4 percent over 10 years).

PROCEEDS: The bond money would pay primarily for facilities work at all campuses, mostly renovation and some new construction, and upgrading equipment.

n $1.2 million, Machias campus, to renovate and improve Powers Hall (including repairing its exterior), which currently houses music and art classrooms, the performing arts center, art gallery, administrative offices and student services, and for laboratory upgrades in the science building.

n $1.2 million, Presque Isle campus, to renovate and upgrade space, equipment and furnishings (including microscopes and fume hoods) in laboratories for the science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs.

n $4 million, University of Southern Maine campuses (Portland, Gorham, and Lewiston), to renovate science laboratories, including those for biology, chemistry, physics, geosciences, environmental sciences, nursing and occupational therapy.

Community college system

The Maine Community College System has exploded in population, growing more than 80 percent in the last decade. After big increases in enrollment, the system has hit physical limitations, turning away 4,000 applicants last year.

“This is really an extremely important bond for us because it gets at the heart of the problem. Having space is the first step,” Fitzsimmons said.

If the bond passes, the system can accommodate an additional 2,400 students each year, or 4,800 more students in all. Last year, the system enrolled 18,561 students.

Like the UMaine System, the community college system also faces flat state funding and rising costs. Annual state funding has been a smaller percentage of the system’s budget as it has undergone rapid growth, Fitzsimmons noted: In 2000, state funding made up 52 percent of the system’s budget; today it is 29 percent.

Fitzsimmons said he is “pretty optimistic” the bond will pass. “People see the value of the community colleges,” he said.

The Maine Community College System bond, Question 5, would pay for the following projects:

n $2.35 million, Central Maine Community College, Auburn, to construct a building to house science laboratories, classrooms and associated offices for expanding and adding associate degree programs.

n $2.45 million, Eastern Maine Community College, Bangor, to construct an addition to Maine Hall and to expand academic classroom and laboratory space, including health sciences classrooms and laboratories and a criminal justice simulation laboratory.

n $2 million, Kennebec Valley Community College (Fairfield and Hinckley), to renovate laboratory space allowing the expansion of the precision machining program; to provide classroom space and associated offices to expand the electrical lineworker program; to renovate to accommodate the addition of a culinary arts program and the relocation of the early childhood program; to remove hazardous materials, restore entrances and exterior doors and improve environmental systems; and to purchase classroom equipment.

n $900,000, Northern Maine Community College, Presque Isle, to renovate Aroostook Hall to expand allied health programs; to add classrooms, laboratories and associated offices; to construct a new maintenance facility; and to purchase classroom equipment.

n $3.4 million, Southern Maine Community College, South Portland and Brunswick, to renovate and upgrade buildings to allow for the relocation and expansion of programs and to purchase classroom equipment to increase the enrollment capacity of the integrated manufacturing program on the Brunswick campus.

n $1 million, Washington County Community College, Calais, to renovate and increase the energy efficiency of the Harold Howland Building; to upgrade and improve existing systems and equipment and convert space for use by heavy equipment programs; and to purchase classroom equipment.

n $3.4 million, York County Community College, Wells, to construct a building to include classrooms, computer laboratories and associated offices and to purchase classroom equipment for the newly implemented precision machining program.

Maine Maritime Academy building

A third measure, Question 4, seeks $4.5 million for Maine Maritime Academy in Castine to help finance a new $14 million science building.

Academy President Bill Brennan said the school is currently using buildings built as far back as the 1860s.

“We haven’t had a new classroom in 30 years, but our population has doubled in that time,” Brennan said. “We’ve done a marvelous job of adapting over the years, but we’re beyond the ability to adapt. We’re well beyond capacity.”

The academy started a capital campaign several years ago to raise funds for the building, which will house classrooms, faculty offices and laboratories. The school has raised $7 million so far.

Maine Maritime enrolls about 900 students on its 35-acre campus in historic Castine. Brennan said the academy places more than 90 percent of its graduates in jobs within 90 days, many at six-figure salaries. The school specializes in hands-on training for marine-related industries, particularly in engineering.

With that focus, modern labs and equipment are “a critical need,” Brennan said.

“When this is built, two-thirds of the financing will have come from the private sector” for a state-owned building, Brennan said. “It’s a real value proposition for the voters.”

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:ngallagher@pressherald.com
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Today's poll: Education bonds

Do you support the higher education bonds on the November ballot?

Yes

No

View Results