Even in a tight budget year, lawmakers think they have a way to start construction on a new $50 million science building at Utah Valley University.
The building is the top priority for the school, above even avoiding faculty furloughs.
"I continue to expend considerable effort on this project, convinced it is our single greatest need at the moment," UVU President Matthew Holland said in his state of the university speech on Thursday.
UVU officials have repeatedly complained about having the fewest square feet of building space per student in the state.
Rep. Steve Clark, R-Provo, said there's going to have to be some monetary maneuvering to get it done. The Capital Facilities and Government Operations appropriations subcommittee approved the science building as a top priority on Thursday.
The twist is that the school, for the next two years, will have to use private funds to pay interest on the bond used to fund the construction. After that, the state will have freed up enough bonding capacity to start picking up the full payments, Clark said.
"This gives us the opportunity to take advantage of the favorable construction market and also the bonding market," he said.
The current science building is supposed to facilitate up to 8,000 students, but UVU Vice President Val Peterson said the current numbers is closer to 20,000.
Many of the UVU students who use the science building are nursing, pre-med or pre-dental students whose degrees require science courses, along with students majoring in other subjects who are required to take at least a one or two basic science classes and labs. School officials have said that without a new building with more lab and classroom space, the university will get to a point where students may have to delay their graduation.
The school has raised $1 million from several donors and potentially has another $2 million in the works.
"If there's no other way to do it, clearly we would support that," Peterson said of paying interest on the bonds, before Thursday's decision.
Holland has been making a serious fundraising effort for the school, and Clark says the building is important enough that Holland is willing to risk alienating faculty and staff by pushing for that first.