PORTLAND – Officials at the University of New England say the construction of a dental school and patient care center is on track, despite Gov. Paul LePage’s decision not to issue voter-approved bonds to help pay for it.

Funding for the $14 million dental school — the first in northern New England — was in a bond package approved by voters in 2010. LePage sent a letter to state agencies in June saying he wouldn’t issue state bonds until legislators reined in spending.

UNE expected to receive $3.5 million toward the new facility next year, but will have to wait until 2014 or 2015, said Nicole Trufant, UNE’s vice president of fiscal affairs.

“It’s a blip,” Trufant said Tuesday about the delay in state funding. “We remain committed to opening the College of Dental Medicine on time and getting the (patient care) center on time, too.”

School officials plan to celebrate the start of construction at the Portland campus at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, along with Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew and Northeast Dental President and CEO Thomas Raffio.

The dental school, which will be at the corner of Stevens Avenue and College Street, is expected to begin offering classes next fall, and to begin seeing patients in the clinic in 2014.

The school is expected to serve about 138 students and the clinic is expected to treat 12,000 patients a year. It received initial accreditation earlier this month.

Trufant said UNE plans to use money in a reserve account to pay for the construction until state bond money becomes available. UNE’s academic programs and tuition are not expected to be affected, she said.

Another $2.3 million from Northeast Dental, a founding donor of the school, is being used to fund the $14 million project.

Trufant said she is confident that UNE will get the money approved by Maine voters. She said UNE has a signed agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services stating that commitment.

“(LePage) has been a great partner of ours,” Trufant said. “He’s supportive of our projects and what we’re doing.”

Staff Writer Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

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