University of Kansas Chief Financial Officer Jeff DeWitt outlines KU’s budget model in a message with Chancellor Douglas Girod and Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer on April 23.

The construction of Integrated Sciences Building 2 would give the University of Kansas the ability to retire some campus buildings with growing deferred maintenance problems, said KU’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff DeWitt in a budget message April 23.

ISB 2 would continue addressing the $213 million in deferred maintenance problems — almost $90 million less than 2018 — that construction of the Central District began to tackle. ISB 2 would also help KU grow, DeWitt said, as the university is facing questions of if and how enrollment and income can increase after coming out of the pandemic. 

“It [the Central District] is an asset we need to leverage to grow. It is not, in my opinion, an albatross that I hear many people talk about...and it really was addressing a huge deferred maintenance problem that we still have to address,” DeWitt said in the budget message. 

“And then we have ISB 2 that’s being built, it’s being built largely by federal money and by funding from the grants. That’s a research facility that will give us the ability, if we want to, to retire some of those buildings that we have deferred maintenance problems on,” he continued.

In a campus message sent Sept. 7, Vice Chancellor of Research Simon Atkinson said the planning and design of a new facility to be constructed in the Central District had begun. The building would break down a barrier that KU’s aging infrastructure places on recruitment and retention of “the top talent that we need to sustain KU’s status as a leading research institution and member of the AAU [Association of American Universities],” he said.

Many successful programs, researchers and scholars are housed in inadequate facilities, Atkinson said. Their research includes finding cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s disease and understanding developmental disorders.

“Much of this work is housed in Haworth Hall, which is now at a point where it struggles to serve the needs of first-class biomedical and biological research and instruction,” Atkinson said in the message. “The underlying configuration of the building, together with its antiquated HVAC [heating, ventilation, and air conditioning] and other systems, makes a complete replacement more sensible than a major renovation.”

In an interview with the Kansan, Atkinson said Haworth would either be repurposed to house other disciplines or would be knocked down altogether. Malott Hall, which is attached to Haworth and houses similar STEM disciplines, “may be more likely to survive than Haworth,” Atkinson said.

The Kansas Board of Regents will meet May 19 to vote on KU’s capital improvement request. Atkinson said KU is anticipating federal stimulus funds intended for projects such as the construction of ISB 2. The projects should be considered “shovel-ready”, and KU began planning and designing the new building to “ensure KU is well-positioned to take advantage of these funds, should they materialize,” he said in the message. 

The capital improvements request submitted to KBOR on April 16 said ISB 2 would be paid for by university funds, student fees, private gifts and federal funds. Atkinson told the Kansan the project would likely not materialize if about 75% of the funds were not covered by either federal grants or donor gifts.

KU will continue working to address deferred maintenance and making salaries and wages more competitive over the next five years, Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer said in the budget discussion.  

“As we do our work to build our future and set our new base and grow into our potential here, we are prioritizing getting our salaries and wages to be much more competitive, and we know we have to do work on deferred maintenance,” Bichlemeyer said. “Again, I want everybody to see that the chancellor, the provost and the CFO are all in recognition and agreement that we have to improve our salaries and wages for our people and it’s one of our highest priorities.”