This year’s state budget allocated $8 million to the University System of New Hampshire to be spent on capital projects approved by the Board of Trustees. The trustees’ Financial Affairs Committee is to meet today to consider some of the proposed projects, including $1.5 million for lights and other upgrades to UNH’s football stadium. So why did UNH issue a press release on Sept. 13th declaring that the $1.5 million stadium renovations were being undertaken?
Rep. Gene Chandler, the Republican leader in the state House of Representatives, spotted the announcement of the unauthorized expenditure and has tried to get to the bottom of it. So far he has yet to receive a satisfactory explanation.
When the Legislature cut the USNH appropriation by about $50 million a year in the last budget, university officials trimmed some spending and said they needed the funding restored so they could continue their vital academic mission and avoid huge tuition hikes. Gov. Maggie Hassan and the Legislature had the chance this year to withhold the money until USNH institutions, particularly UNH, delivered plans for serious, deep budget reforms. Instead, Hassan led legislators to restore the funding with the understanding that tuition would be frozen for a mere two years. No change in the university spending culture would happen.
Months later, we see that UNH continues to spend on priorities that are unrelated to providing better academics or lower student costs. It even moved forward with an expensive sports project before it had approval from trustees to do so. This is a thumb in the eye to legislators and taxpayers. How many times does this have to happen before legislators learn their lesson?