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Lawmakers call for savings plan in wake of low project bids

By Paul Snyder

State lawmakers want to try cutting into a maintenance budget deficit that will never be balanced.

Four University of Wisconsin System projects this year produced lower-than-expected bids resulting in a combined savings of almost $20 million.

The state Building Commission cut $17 million of that money when it approved a renovation to Carlson Hall at UW-Whitewater. Although they both said they liked the project, Kaufert and state Sen. Ted Kanavas, R-Brookfield, voted against it to try to prompt a longer discussion on how to best use project savings.

But David Miller said that 10 percent likely wouldn’t make much difference for the UW System. The UW System netted $108.4 million of the $200 million budget for maintenance, but Miller said schools’ requests stand at $450 million.

The UW System isn’t stopping its practice of building new, either. Miller said the system already has $222.4 million worth of projects — the system’s largest amount ever — tipped for the 2011-13 budget.

Kaufert said he knows the money will never cover all the needs, but if it can be used for some, the Building Commission should talk about making that change.

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