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Clay County’s Noel Shull offers up a funding solution for UMKC downtown campus

Architectural renderings show the proposed new home for the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance.
Architectural renderings show the proposed new home for the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance. UMKC

Conspicuously absent from Gov. Eric Greitens’ budget was any allocation of funding toward the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s long-sought downtown arts campus, but a Clay County Republican has an idea for getting $48 million in public funds for the project.

Rep. Noel Shull recently introduced a resolution that would authorize the Missouri Health and Educational Facilities Authority to issue up to $48 million in bonds as the state’s share for UMKC’s $96 million effort to build a downtown arts campus. UMKC wants its arts campus on the western edge of the Crossroads Arts District just to the south of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

“I’ve always been a supporter of arts and music,” Shull said.

He pointed to a favorable interest rate environment for selling bonds, which would be repaid by annual appropriations in the Missouri budget.

Shull estimated that annual payments would be around $3.6 million, an amount that may be more palatable a Missouri General Assembly and a first-term governor facing a complicated budget.

Private donors, led by Julia Irene Kauffman’s $20 million pledge, came up with $48 million to contribute to the downtown arts campus. It’s a development seen by UMKC as a means to replace aging facilities for its arts programs currently at its Volker campus and one seen by city leaders as a benefit to Kansas City’s downtown.

The university had contemplated tapping a state matching grant program for an additional $48 million after reaching its private fundraising goal. That program requires the state’s agreement and an appropriation of money.

From the University of Missouri System’s point of view, any mechanism to help fund the effort for the downtown arts campus will suffice.

“Legislators can use any number of means of providing funding for capital improvement projects at universities but aren’t limited to the 50-50 matching fund,” said UM System spokesman John Fougere.

Schull’s measure, House Concurrent Resolution No. 19, was referred to the House Budget Committee and is scheduled for a hearing Thursday.

Steve Vockrodt: 816-234-4277, @st_vockrodt

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