A new borrowing bill issued by Governor Charlie Baker, the Senate, and House will provide $475 million for the University of Massachusetts System for campus improvements, The Lowell Sun reported Monday, Feb. 12. Beacon Hill’s new borrowing bill is a $3.5 billion deal in total. Officials have said the bill will authorize borrowing for investment in public higher education and funding for Boston’s local improvements.
Broken down, the bill will authorize $680 million for general state facility improvements, $500 million for public safety including security facilities, $675 million for trial court facility improvements, and an additional $475 million for state university and community college campus improvements.
“We have some trial court building[s] across the Commonwealth that are literally falling apart,” Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka said in a Senate meeting, according to The Lowell Sun.
“Passage of this legislation will ensure that the Commonwealth's facilities can continue on their path to a state of good repair," Baker wrote in a letter to the legislation he filed on May 31 of last year. "The Commonwealth's facilities improved by this bill will house and serve some of our neediest citizens, help educate our future workforce, prepare for climate change, keep our communities and workers safe, and will realize savings in energy and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.”
Baker expressed concern for the University of Massachusetts Boston in April of 2017 when he spoke on WGBH radio. He said that the school should focus on its “academic infrastructure” in the midst of the school’s controversy for canceling 20 courses to be taught that summer due to what was then a $30 million budget deficit. “What needs to happen here is the UMass Boston campus [must] basically get its feet back on the ground in a way that it can be sustained going forward,” Baker said.
Later that same month, Baker’s office committed $78 million to demolish the Science Building’s crumbling garage, which has been said to be provided for this fiscal year. In addition to former Chancellor Motley stepping down last summer, Interim Chancellor Barry Mills was hired to solve UMass Boston’s budget crisis.
“The big issue for me... should be, let’s see what the program looks like going forward and do everything you can to protect the core academic infrastructure of the place,” Baker said on WGBH radio show.
The new borrowing bill was approved on Nov. 15 of last year in an overwhelming vote of 144-6. UMass Boston officials haven’t explicitly stated whether they have been given the money yet or if they are planning to use it.
In an exclusive interview conducted by The Mass Media in October of last year, Mills explained that it was years of money mismanagement that led to the school’s massive financial constraint. According to Mills, the budget deficit is now down to $10 million and will continue to progress in that direction before he steps down by the end of this year in June.
Mills explained that the school’s financial constraints will be taken care of and that he is confident the school will find a new permanent chancellor.