RALEIGH (July 6, 2022) – Now we know where state legislators want to put the UNC System, NC Community College System, Department of Public Instruction and Department of Commerce.
Across the street.
And now it will cost a mere $180 million in taxpayer dollars.
In what has grown to a $250 million plan to demolish and shuffle state offices in downtown Raleigh,1 the state budget legislators unveiled and approved last week orders demolition of the Administration Building just across Salisbury Street from the Legislative Building.
The plan is to replace the building with an “Education Campus” that consolidates offices for the university and community college systems, DPI and the Department of Commerce.2
As we’ve said before, moving the UNC System Office from Chapel Hill is not a new or bad idea – system officials once considered moving their offices near PBS NC’s offices in Research Triangle Park, where the UNC System already owns land.3
But as we’ve also said before, placing the UNC System within sight of the Legislative Building – where legislators can further politicize an institution that’s already overly politicized – is a very bad idea.
Never mind the expenditure of a quarter-billion dollars on administrative offices. (Is that how conservatives limit bureaucracy? Why doesn’t this expenditure make real conservatives shudder?) And never mind the parking and commuting challenges for employees in downtown Raleigh.
WHEN THE UNC BOARD OF GOVERNORS voted in May to spend $15 million to lease temporary office space in Raleigh for the move, three members – all Republicans and former members of the state House – objected.
“We have space here. It’s not costing us $15 million to maintain space here,” said BOG member and former state budget director Art Pope.
“It is my opinion that the move from here to Raleigh was done purely on the basis of politics,” said former House Majority Leader Leo Daughtry. (Daughtry, by the way, was not reappointed to the Board of Governors last week.)
“The reasons to do this seem to be lacking,” said BOG member John Fraley. “This move is going to cost us a lot of money that we do not have to spend – and could cost us $100 million, ultimately.”5
THAT TURNED OUT to be a vast understatement.
In the mere seven months since the 2021-23 budget was first adopted in November, the projected cost of the “Education Campus” has grown from $100 million to $180 million.6
How’s that for some inflation?
All to keep the university under the legislature’s thumb.
2 https://www.ncleg.gov/Sessions/2021/Bills/House/PDF/H103v4.pdf, pp. 181-182.
6 https://www.ncleg.gov/Sessions/2021/Bills/House/PDF/H103v4.pdf, pp. 172, 174.