By Tyler Leeds

The Bulletin

Long-term funding for OSU-Cascades is absent from Gov. John Kitzhaber’s proposed budget, though it’s possible the Legislature could include money for the branch campus in its version of the budget.

As the university struggles with a legal challenge to the first phase of its new campus, the news this week about support for later stages wasn’t a surprise, according to the school’s top administrator, Becky Johnson. For every legislative session, the state’s public universities put together a prioritized list of capital projects. Because the needs outstrip the supply of public money, the list offers the Legislature and governor an idea of what projects are most important.

Funding for OSU-Cascades wasn’t seen as the top need for Oregon State University’s overall operations, as two other projects were listed above the $30 million OSU requested for its Bend campus.

Those two other projects, a $25 million expansion of OSU’s Marine Studies Center and a new $30 million forest science complex, were included in the governor’s proposed budget.

“Right now we need to focus on developing (the first phase) of our campus,” Johnson said Friday. “If all the university presidents had seen that our campus was getting developed and looked like it was getting full, there may have been a greater urgency to help us expand. Right now we have to spend the money we do have.”

OSU-Cascades already received $16 million in state bonds, backed by $4 million in university funds and just less than $5 million in philanthropic support. That money is earmarked to develop the first phase of the campus, a 10-acre parcel with dorms and academic buildings on Bend’s west side. The project is being challenged at the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals by Truth In Site, an organization of neighbors concerned about the university’s impact on traffic and parking. The university’s proposal has already been approved by an independent hearings officer and the Bend City Council.

The $30 million request, which would be complemented with $10 million in university funds, could be used to build additional buildings in a 46-acre former pumice mine adjacent to the 10 acres the university already purchased. OSU-Cascades hasn’t closed on the larger property and halted its evaluation of whether reclaiming the mine would be feasible, though an initial geotechnical review found no major obstacles.

Johnson said the university plans to go to the Legislature this upcoming session to lobby for $2 million of the $30 million it originally wanted, money she said the campus needs to plan for the expansion. Even if that funding wouldn’t allow OSU-Cascades to build anything, Johnson said it would allow it to lay a road map, leading to the pumice mine or elsewhere. “I don’t think we’ll be getting the ($30 million) this session, but it’s possible for 2017-19,” Johnson said, referencing the budget the Legislature will consider in just more than two years.

State Rep.-elect Knute Bueh­ler, R-Bend, said during his campaign he would work to secure long-term funding for OSU-Cascades, but on Thursday said he hadn’t yet looked at the governor’s budget.

“I’m going to have to talk to OSU and get their perspective on it,” Buehler said.

Steve Clark, OSU’s vice president of university relations and marketing, said the university administration in Corvallis considers funding OSU-Cascades a top priority, but “overall is pleased with the budget.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com

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