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November 26, 2012
By Jane Tors
Among the agenda items to be considered by the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents at their Nov. 29-30 meeting are proposals related to University of Nevada, Reno holdings. If approved, the proposed sale of land and excess water rights will be used to eliminate the remaining long-term, capital debt associated with the former Fire Science Academy, and to support future student-oriented capital projects.
In one proposal, the University will request Regents' approval to sell 165 acres to the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County for $7.4 million. The land represents a portion of the 1,080-acre Main Station Field Laboratory and would be purchased as part of the RTC's "Southeast Connector" roadway project, a long-standing, priority project to increase regional transportation capacity.
The land, which is on the east side of the Main Station Field Laboratory and has long been part of the "Southeast Connector" roadway plan, is not currently used for agricultural or research purposes. Most of the land has been leased to the City of Reno since 2000.
The proposal includes a mechanism through which the sale will benefit the University's College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources (CABNR). If an endowment was established with the $7.4 million, the anticipated revenue stream would be approximately $333,000 annually. In this case and in lieu of an endowment, the sale proceeds will be applied toward the elimination of the capital debt associated with the now closed Fire Science Academy. CABNR will, nonetheless, receive an ongoing, annual budget augmentation of approximately $333,000, which is the equivalent of the revenue stream had an endowment been created.
In a separate proposal, the University will request the Regents' approval to sell excess water rights to Great Basin Land and Water, a Nevada nonprofit organization under contract with the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, for $5.4 million. These sale proceeds will also be applied toward the elimination of the Fire Science Academy capital debt and/or student-oriented capital projects.
The 961.86 acre feet of water rights will support a comprehensive, nature conservation effort related to the Truckee River and Pyramid Lake. The water rights are associated with property no longer owned or used by the University. Even with the sale, the University will maintain enough water rights to support 4 acre-feet of water coverage for every acre of land at the Main Station Field Laboratory.
Between the two sales, the long-term capital debt associated with the Fire Science Academy will be paid off, and this has important implications for students. For years, the debt has been serviced by a per-credit fee paid by University students. The Fire Science Academy was closed Dec. 31, 2011, and as a result, $4 of a $6.50 per-credit fee was redirected to support new bonding capacity for future, student-oriented, campus capital projects. If the land and water rights sales go forward, the remaining $2.50 of the $6.50 per-credit fee will be redirected to support new bonding capacity as well.
"There are many beneficiaries of these proposals," said University President Marc Johnson. "The land sale supports development of transportation infrastructure and the water rights sale supports a nature conservancy effort. CABNR benefits as well.
"Most important, we will be able to complete a long-term initiative to return the per-credit fee paid by students to a use that ultimately, directly benefits students.
"Increased bonding capacity means we can take a look at significant construction projects that will continue to upgrade our campus and enhance the student experience," said Johnson. "I look forward to continuing to plan these future ventures with students."
Other key agenda items on the Regents' agenda include:
The NSHE Board of Regents meeting will take place on the campus of UNLV.