This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Albany "storm" shouldn't rain on UB's funds for Pharmacy move

Published: February 24, 2005

Contributing Editor

Despite a "perfect storm" of disruptions and legal disputes clouding the state budget process in Albany, UB is very likely to succeed in securing $29 million to cover the cost of moving the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (SOPPS) from the North Campus to the South.

Ryan A. McPherson, assistant vice president of government affairs, gave the Faculty Senate Executive Committee yesterday an overview of budgetary activity—or lack thereof—in Albany, which he said has been hampered by lawsuits between the governor and legislature over how the budget process works, uncertainty over how to provide more equitable state funding mandated for grades pre-K through 12, and the tensions between the Legislature and SUNY central administration.

"This perfect storm could break two ways. We could even exceed last year, which was the longest time without a budget in history, or you could see some movement very quickly because they want to avoid that," McPherson said.

In spite of "a small amount" of SUNY-specific capital funds in the 2005-06 executive budget, the Office of Government Affairs succeeded in leveraging $29 million for the planned move of SOPPS from Cooke and Hochstetter halls on the North Campus to Acheson Hall on the South Campus.

"Last year, we pushed (for) this, we got the money included and the legislature added that piece. The governor then vetoed every single capital add the legislature made, which included the UB School of Pharmacy," McPherson said. "We then worked with the governor's office for the last four months before (the current budget) came out and got it added back in as one of only a few projects. Since it's in the executive budget now and the legislature has already voted yes on it (last year), it's in a very good position right now to be enacted into law."

McPherson added that altogether, it's anticipated that the pharmacy school move will receive $44 million in state funds, including $15 million of the lump sum UB received in last year's five-year capital plan for critical maintenance. That $15 million, which had been earmarked "to mothball" Acheson Hall, instead will be put toward the move.

As to the continuing budget process, this year all three entities involved—the governor, the Assembly and the Senate—"have to agree on what the overall numbers are," and toward that end, the state controller is meeting with them to find agreement on revenue projections, McPherson said.

"This is something new and it actually may help out the budget process quite a bit," he said.

McPherson said the UB Office of Government Affairs will continue to speak in favor of the SUNY Tuition Guarantee Proposal. UB President John B. Simpson testified before the joint budget committee of the Senate and the Assembly on this proposal two weeks ago and "was well received," he said.

"If there wasn't a proposal to hike tuition by $500, we could engage in a conversation much more easily just about the merits of a tuition guarantee and provide a stable, rational tuition policy," McPherson said. "President Simpson has consistently spoken on this—not just in Albany but here—because to him, that is the key piece that is holding us back from being able to plan out 10, five, two years from now, because we don't know what our income is going to be because we have no idea whether we're going to have a state cut or not and this would provide predictability."

The tuition guarantee proposal is an attempt to "de-politicize the tuition issue," McPherson added.

"Basically it comes down to five things that it does: It freezes the current tuition rate for incoming students, so if you're a first-year student, you'll have that rate for four years. It then brings predictability to the students, faculty and families. It encourages four-year graduation because if you don't graduate within four years, the tuition is adjusted to what it would be for an incoming student. For each incoming class, the tuition would be adjusted to the Higher Education Price Index. And it also ensures that state government provides the money that is needed to fully pay for negotiated, mandated salary costs."

McPherson said the governor's budget also included PACT, or Partnership to Accelerate Completion Time proposal. Designed to encourage students to finish their college educations in four years, the program would provide SUNY's four-year institutions "$50 for each first-time student in the beginning, and then if they actually graduate in four years, another $500."

In other business, the FSEC received an update on the new storage facility planned for the University Libraries collections. Barbara von Wahlde, associate vice president for University Libraries, was joined by Steven Roberts, assistant vice president, and Karen Senglaup, director of access services for the Arts/Sciences Libraries, in reporting that the facility now will be constructed near Rensch Road on the North Campus.

"A facility will be built by early spring of 2006," Senglaup said, adding that at this time next year, the libraries staff will be moving "truckloads of materials from our circulating libraries down the road across the street from Sweet Home Road onto Rensch Road to a facility that will sit on about a footprint of 16,000 square feet—of which the storage module will represent about 12,000 square feet."

The new facility will include "rows and rows of industrial shelving that will go about 30 feet in the air and we will use a cherry picker to retrieve materials from the shelves. It will look very much like the Harvard storage facility, very much like the Cornell storage facility and a number of other facilities throughout the country," she said.

The move itself will include from 1.1 million to 1.5 million volumes, representing up to one-third of the total University Libraries collection.

The libraries team reassured the FSEC about continued access to the materials that will be transferred into storage.

"We intend to build a reading room for on-site access for scholars who require runs of material. There will be staff members there at the facility's service desk who will retrieve the materials at the moment's notice—you walk in, we get it—and we will build a dock and delivery facility that ensures swift turnaround. We're shooting for two-hour access for articles and no longer than 24 hours turnaround time for book materials," Senglaup said.

"We fully expect to not only deliver these materials to libraries but we'd like to start a whole new service and actually deliver to the departments," she added. "Wherever you are—the faculty—is where we intend to deliver these materials."

Von Wahlde said the new facility "will be in many cases a better environment for the books. The climate and control will be better and we expect that they will be well safeguarded there, both environmentally and physically."

Roberts added that library staff already has been working to consolidate the collections, and is studying adding viewing rooms, group study areas and computer areas to consisting space.

The new facility's floor plan has room to expand another 5,000 square feet when needed.