COLUMBUS, Ohio — The downtown Rhodes State College project could be held up due to state funding concerns.
An Ohio House committee is looking into the ramifications of HB 670, which would see the state renege on already approved funding to colleges and universities.
The state funding shortfalls during the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing lawmakers to consider what cuts to make and whether to reauthorize spending for capital projects already approved.
One project that could be affected is Rhodes State College’s $24 million Center for Health Science Education & Innovation on Lima’s town square.
Discussion on the bill is in the finance committee in the Ohio House.
“Well, there’s a Senate bill and a House Bill,” said state Rep. Bob Cupp, R-Lima. “This house bill did not include any re-appropriations. Again, this is re-appropriations for university and college projects, but this is only on a second hearing (Tuesday).”
Cupp serves on the Finance Committee and even though it’s early in the process, no final decisions have been made on what projects will get cut. Lawmakers are looking for passage of a bill before the end of the month.
“The bill was introduced without any higher ed projects and so the committee is going to sift through those and see if there’ll be amendments,” Cupp said.
Cupp is well-aware of the Rhodes State project in downtown Lima.
“I think Rhodes State has already got contracts signed. I saw that stuff was going up downtown. I think projects that are underway, eventually will probably make their way into the re-appropriation bill,” Cupp said. “We’re advising them to make a case by explaining what they’re doing, what the status of the project is, what kind of contracts they have — that sort of thing.”
Even though the money has already been approved for the downtown project, the state doles out the funding periodically.
“They haven’t used all their money yet because they can only get it in progress payments,” Cupp said.
Those progress payments could be stalled if they’re not added into the bill.
“Right, so there wouldn’t be any money to pay for the ongoing construction so it all theoretically comes to a halt,” Cupp said.
Rhodes State President Cynthia Spiers is keeping a close eye on the bill.
“All of higher education recognizes that House Bill 670 is being discussed within the House this week. We understand the budgetary concerns of the State, and we also understand the importance of higher education in the economic recovery of the State of Ohio. We are all working with our legislators in order to bring understanding of several of the projects that are in progress, but for now, we are waiting to see where the House will land with regards to higher education. As we know more, it will be important to share with the regional communities,” Spiers said.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.