2007 Bond Proposals: Frequently Asked Questions
On November 6, Maine voters will be asked to vote on several items on the Statewide ballot. In some municipalities, voters will also decide local ballot issues and candidate elections.
Two items on the Statewide ballot are directly relevant to Maine’s public universities – Ballot Questions 2 and 3. The following questions and answers provide more information about these issues.
Simply put, a bond issue is the way the State and other government entities borrow large amounts of money. The interest rates charged are relatively low primarily because the government itself promises its “full faith and credit” to guarantee it will pay back the borrowed money. Because of that, there is virtually no risk that the lenders won’t get their money repaid on time and as promised.
How do this year's bond proposals pertain to the University of Maine System?
There are two proposals on the November 6, 2007 Statewide ballot involving Maine’s public universities. Ballot Question 2 would, if passed, indirectly support the work of university faculty, staff, and students. Ballot Question 3 would provide direct benefits to the University of Maine System and other public higher education providers.
Ballot Question 2 is a bond issue that would provide $55 million (through State borrowing) to stimulate Maine’s economy. The major part of the funds, $50 million, would be available to a State-affiliated agency called the Maine Technology Institute (MTI). If the bond passes, MTI would award, on a competitive basis, research grants for projects related to advancing specific aspects of Maine’s economy. Faculty, staff, and students at all of Maine’s public universities would be eligible to receive these grants, as would other Maine-based researchers. In most instances, the grants would also be based on their ability to attract federal and private-sector investment in Maine. Based on past experience with this type of borrowing, the research grants are expected to attract at least $50 million in additional investment in Maine based research, largely through federal research grants. About half of the money will be spent on funding researchers and student employees involved in the research projects.
Question 2 also includes $3.5 million for the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) and $1.5 million for the Maine Rural Development Authority. Those funds would be made available to support additional economic development initiative
Ballot Question 3 is a bond issue that would provide $43.5 million through State borrowing to improve education in Maine. From this amount, $23 million would be provided to the University of Maine System to improve classroom, laboratory, and library space at all seven of its universities. Of the remaining funds, $15.5 million would be used for similar improvements at Maine’s seven community colleges and $1.5 million for Maine Maritime Academy.
An additional $1.5 million would be used to replenish the State Revolving Restoration Fund for primary and secondary public schools. In addition, $2 million would be made available to the Maine State Cultural Affairs Council.
Under Maine law, the money can only be used for buildings and equipment that will be fully functional for several years – usually, at least ten years, but more often for decades. The money cannot be used for ongoing expenses such as payroll, operating funds, or tuition subsidies.
How did these proposals get on the ballot?
Working with the Chancellor, university presidents, and others, the Board of Trustees formally asked the Governor and Legislature to approve a plan for State investment in higher education facilities and resources. The final version and amount were determined by the Governor and the Legislature. The Legislature and the Governor had to give their approval (and, implicitly, their acknowledgement that the State can afford to borrow the money) in order for the bond proposals to appear on the ballot for voter approval or rejection.
UMaine—Renovation of classrooms and laboratories in Aubert Hall and other critical UMaine academic buildings.
UMA—Construction of additional classroom space for Jewett Hall on the Augusta campus; renovation of Belfast Hall on the Bangor campus, to be used to relocate and expand the library and to add more learning space.
UMF—Renovation of classroom and laboratory space at Preble and Ricker halls; improving energy efficiencies.
UMFK—Renovation and construction of additional classroom and lab space on campus.
UMM—Renovation of laboratories and classroom space in the Science Building and Torrey Hall.
UMPI—Renovation of Folsom/Pullen Hall, the main classroom and laboratory building on campus. Renovations will focus on ADA accessibility, improvements to the heating and ventilation system, and energy efficiencies.
USM—Modifications on the Portland campus to the Glickman Library and construction of an adjacent building that will house the Osher Map Library as well as additional educational space; renovation and addition of learning space at Lewiston-Auburn College, USM’s Lewiston campus.
In addition, $400,000 would be made available to improve the information-technology infrastructure across the University of Maine System.
In each case, a university’s share of the bond money (i.e., State funding) will be augmented by System funds. Below are the sources of funds and the total of funds available to each university.
|University||State Bond Funds||Additional System Funds||Total for University|
|UMaine||$9.7 million||$1.6 million||$11.3 million|
|UMA||$1.4 million||$600,000||$2.0 million|
|UMF||$1.4 million||$600,000||$2.0 million|
|UMFK||$1.4 million||$600,000||$2.0 million|
|UMM||$1.4 million||$900,000||$2.3 million|
|UMPI||$1.4 million||$600,000||$2.0 million|
|USM||$5.9 million||$1.1 million||$7.0 million|
The University of Maine System Board of Trustees worked with the university presidents and others to determine the highest priorities for improving campus facilities.
The University System asked the State to approve $62 million in projects to address the most urgent needs on each campus. In light of the State’s current financial situation, the Legislature and Governor eventually agreed to approve a much smaller amount for the universities: $23 million. They also decided to combine the universities’ request with other educational requests to form a single $43.5 million ballot question (Question 3). The remaining money would be distributed to the Maine Community College System, Maine Maritime Academy, the Maine Department of Education, and the Maine State Cultural Affairs Council. (See breakdown below.)
It was left up to university leaders to determine how the $23 million should be spent, with the condition that the money had to be used to improve classrooms, laboratories, and libraries. Each university made its decision based on the amount of money available to it; the affordability of a project; and the ability to use the money to complete a project, as opposed to partially funding it.
No. If the bonds are passed by the voters, the State – not the universities or its students – will be fully responsible for repayment of the bonds. These expenses are viewed as part of the State’s share of investment in public higher education.
Maine sets the following requirements for voting. A voter must:
- Be 18 years of age or older by November 6, 2007
- Be registered to vote on or before November 6, 2007
Students have the right to register in the town or city where they reside while enrolled in college if they have established residency there, even if the residency is a campus residence hall. Students must meet the same residency requirements as all other potential voters, but may not be asked to meet any additional requirements.
Students who do not consider their academic year residence as their official residence cannot register in that municipality. However, they may register and vote in the community that they consider their official residence. If residency is determined to be in another municipality or state, they may request an “absentee ballot” and have it sent to them at their school address. The ballot may be mailed back to the home municipality, where it will be counted so long as it is received on or before Election Day.
The following items should be kept in mind when determining residency for a college student:
A person does not gain or lose a residence solely because of the person's presence or absence while a student in any institution of learning. This may not be construed to prevent a student at any institution of learning from qualifying as a voter in the municipality where the student resides while attending that institution. [Maine State Statutes, Title 21-A, §112.7]
When registering students, the registrar must make the determination of residency as he or she would for any potential voter.
A student may have only one official residence at a time.
If a student has established residency in another municipality or State for any reason, and if the circumstances have not changed (that is, the student still considers that location his or her official residence), the other jurisdiction may be the legal residence where the student should be registered to vote.
Question Two will read as follows:
“Do you favor a bond issue to stimulate economic development and job creation that would provide $5,000,000 in loans and grant funds and would provide $50,000,000 in research, development and commercialization funds for targeted technology sectors, awarded after a competitive process administered by the Maine Technology Institute, and will leverage at least $50,000,000 in other funds?”
Question Three will read as follows:
“Do you favor a $43,500,000 bond issue for interior and exterior building renovations, improvements and additions at all campuses of the Maine Community College System, the Maine Maritime Academy and the University of Maine System; to replenish the School Revolving Renovation Fund for school repairs and renovations; and to support capital improvements for cultural and educational assets such as museums, historical facilities and libraries?”
According to the Maine Community College System office, the money will be allocated as follows:
Central Maine Community College, Auburn: $1,463,000 for electrical infrastructure improvement; renovations at Jalbert, Kirk, and Fortin halls; and security improvements.
Eastern Maine Community College, Bangor: $4,936,000 for renovations to Maine Hall, the college’s primary classroom building; additional campus upgrades to address environmental and access issues.
Kennebec Valley Community College, Fairfield: $3,030,000 for renovations and repairs to Frye, King, and Carter halls and to Frye Annex; equipment, technology, and classroom improvements across campus.
Northern Maine Community College, Presque Isle: $758,000 for renovations to the Mailman Trades Building and Christie Complex; upgrades to heating and ventilation systems; and new classroom technology.
Southern Maine Community College, South Portland: $3,578,000 for renovations and repairs to the Health Science Building and Culinary Arts/Cafeteria; general campus building & infrastructure repairs.
Washington County Community College, Calais: $1,236,000 for repair and retrofitting of classroom laboratories for heavy equipment operations/maintenance, automotives, welding, and plumbing/heating.
York County Community College, Wells: $500,000 for upgrades to its Information Technology infrastructure.
According to MMA, its share of the Question 3 bond money would be used for interior and exterior building renovations, improvements and additions on the MMA campus, located in Castine.
The Maine Rural Development Authority (MRDA) has an existing revolving loan fund that provides short term loans (so-called “gap financing”) to public or private entities for projects that will restore or create employment opportunities. Funds can be used for acquisition, development, or redevelopment of commercial facilities. As loans are repaid, the funds become available for additional lending. The additional $1.5 million in bond funds will increase the total size of the revolving loan program and enable the program to serve more people and projects in Maine.
As the title suggests, this fund provides loans to help school districts and communities pay for repairs and improvements to public K-12 schools. The money targets improvements that address health, safety and compliance deficiencies, general renovation needs and learning space upgrades. If Question 3 passes, an additional $1.5 million would be added to existing funds available for loans to local school districts. Part of the loan would be forgiven (like a grant) based on the school district’s ability to pay. Every project receives at least 30% loan forgiveness, up to a maximum of 70%.
John Diamond, the University System’s Executive Director of External Affairs, is a resource available to assist and answer questions regarding the November bond proposals. He may be reached at email@example.com or at 207-949-4904.