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Rutgers Board of Governors increases spending flexibility for capital projects

The Rutgers Board of Governors just gave some University students good reason to think that campus construction and renovation projects will be completed more quickly.

On Dec. 15, 2015, the Rutgers Board of Governors granted increased flexibility for University Facilities and Capital Planning to spend public dollars on building projects without gaining formal board authorization.

The board raised the threshold for spending on capital projects from $2 million in response to a request from Rutgers administrators, and now the University can spend up to $5 million on construction and renovation projects without requesting the board’s position.

The approval threshold for capital project spending was last adjusted one decade ago in 2006, said Antonio Calcado, Rutgers’ vice president of University Facilities and Capital Planning.

It was necessary to ask the Board of Governors to raise the approval threshold slightly because costs have continued to skyrocket over the past 10 years, Calcado said.

“Ten years in the construction business is a long time, and essentially what has happened is that the costs have risen significantly from 10 years ago, so that we’re not buying in 2016 what we were buying in 2006 for $2 million,” he said.

Not requiring a board vote for projects that necessitate less than $5 million gives University Facilities and Capital Planning greater flexibility, enables them to move quicker on projects and promotes decision-making efficiency because the Board of Governors meets about six times per year, Calcado said.

For example, if they miss the May or June board meeting, they might not get to another meeting until the first week of October. That would essentially stop a “small” project worth $3 million or $4 million for three months.

Raising the spending threshold allows the University to better service students by completing projects faster without taking away from the Rutgers governance model, Calcado said. The board is still informed, and is capable of stopping the process if it is deemed necessary.

Expanding the Board of Governors’ approval threshold for capital project spending is necessary for accomplishing smaller feats like renovating Hickman Hall on Douglass campus and Scott Hall on the College Avenue campus, Calcado said.

“We’re not slowing the system down by waiting to take such small projects to the board,” Calcado said. “We provide a report to the board on a quarterly basis that says what projects are moving. The board is informed, but it doesn’t stop us from moving on these small projects.”

No projects “of significance” are typically completed before spring semesters, but students can expect The Yard @ College Avenue student housing and Seminary Place classroom building projects to be completed before Fall 2016, Calcado said.

Gaining the board’s approval to bypass the board for projects below the $5 million window facilitates the projects that are already planned, Calcado said. It will not influence the pursuit of new construction and renovation, but expedite work in progress instead.

“It really is a housekeeping issue for the most part,” he said. “This doesn’t take away from any governance, and at the same time it allows us to move a little quicker.”

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