City weighs CMU request for more money

Increasing funding for Colorado Mesa University is one of the proposals the Grand Junction City Council debated Monday night as it begins to allocate dollars for the 2013 budget.

University President Tim Foster has requested $7 million from the city for construction of a new academic building. Foster also is requesting $3 million from Mesa County and $4 million from the university for the building, which is needed because of an expanding student population, he said.

The city already gives the university $500,000 a year to purchase homes to help the university continue its expansion project.

City councilors tentatively agreed to reallocate the $500,000 annual contribution to the building fund and possibly give the university $2 million from their reserve fund to aid in contributions for the new construction.

Councilor Teresa Coons said the university’s impact of working with local engineering and energy businesses appears to be growing in the past three years. The benefits of the institution extend to the local economy beyond offering students degrees and the sales taxes those students pay, Coons said.

“We’ve got a critical mass. If there’s not the infrastructure, those folks won’t come and stay,” she said.

Councilors also are jockeying with a number of funding requests both from city departments and from community groups. They include reinstating funds for chip sealing roads, a host of other transportation improvements, reinstating employee wages and offering a contribution for the 2013 Pro-Challenge Cycling race.

After covering its operating budget, debt payments, a more than $20 million reserve fund and other identified expenditures, the city is expected to have an additional nearly $19 million over the next three years to complete capital improvement projects.


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