Purdue budget cutting turns to construction costs
December 15, 2012 4:14PM
Updated: December 16, 2012 2:44AM
WEST LAFAYETTE (AP) — Purdue University is looking to trim its construction costs as part of a 10-year plan that officials say could save the university tens of millions of dollars.
The university announced Dec. 3 that most of the construction inspection department would be eliminated by March 2. It also is changing its building requirements to give contractors more flexibility, the Journal & Courier reported.
The cuts come after Purdue conducted a wide search in 2010 for more than $100 million in spending cuts to address a $67.4 million budget shortfall and a return of funding to the state during the recession. That goal was met by offering buyouts, limiting hiring and pay raises and making other changes.
Al Diaz, executive vice president for business and finance, said Purdue now wants to look at further ways to reduce costs and increase revenue over the next decade.
“We have been focusing significant energy on the issue of improving our performance on construction projects,” he said.
Additional cuts aren’t likely to sit well with faculty and staff, who’ve seen their departments do without phones and clerical and faculty positions left empty.
J. Paul Robinson, Purdue professor and chairman of the University Senate, said the biological sciences department has endured more than $600,000 in cuts through a combination of layoffs, unfilled positions and reduced funding for graduate students in the last two school years.
He called the need for ongoing cuts “bogus,” noting that the university is boosting revenue by adding a $2,000 fee to international students’ tuition. More than 8,500 students from other countries are enrolled this fall.
But further efforts to find efficiencies are likely, especially once Gov. Mitch Daniels takes over as Purdue’s 12th president in January. Daniels hasn’t laid out specifics but has mentioned cutting administrative overhead and rethinking internal procedures.
“There are a lot of people working hard but maybe not working hard on what they should,” Daniels said in September. “Remember, each dollar comes from a taxpayer or family.”
Bob McMains, vice president of physical facilities, and Ken Sandel, director of physical and capital planning, say they’ve identified some efficiencies by changing Purdue’s construction practices to allow more flexibility for contractors, which could lower project costs.
“One of the things we found in our review is our standards are complex, sometimes cumbersome and confusing,” Sandel said. “If that leads to a misinterpretation, if that leads to a bidder not wanting to take a risk, it could lead to a higher bid (we accept).”
Sandel said the changes, which include eliminating brand names from standards, are expected to cut the cost of upcoming construction projects by 10 percent each.
McMains said eliminating the inspection department brings Purdue in line with most other schools, few of which had such departments.
Indiana University does not employ construction inspectors. Instead, consulting architects and engineers perform inspections as needed, spokesman Mark Land said.
The 22 affected construction inspectors at Purdue will be placed on a preferential hiring list for other Purdue openings.
“The people were doing the job they were asked to do. The people were very good people,” said McMains. “We do hope to get them opportunities at Purdue.”