UMKC plans to raise $96 million for arts campus without state help

Plans for the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s downtown arts campus no longer call for the $96 million project to use matching funds from the state.

The University of Missouri System announced Wednesday that it will arrange an alternative funding match for the project, rather than relying on a 50-50 matching program the state has for capital projects, according to a news release from UMKC.

Later Wednesday, Gov. Eric Greitens announced his veto of a bill that would have approved $48 million in matching funds. The veto is the Republican’s first as governor.

UM System President Mun Choi said the new approach to funding the arts campus would expedite the start of construction and save money, according to the news release. He also said that detailed financial plans are being developed and will be presented to the UM System’s Board of Curators at its September meeting.

The arts campus, which would be located across the street from the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, was at one point expected to receive $48 million in funding from the state to match $48 million from other contributors.

During the Missouri Legislature’s regular session, the House and Senate approved $48 million of state bonds for the project. However, Greitens’ silence on the issue had stirred anxiety among private donors to the project, The Kansas City Star reported.

In a statement about the veto, Greitens said lawmakers “had no plan for who would pay” for the state’s portion of the project.

“Politicians are addicted to spending your money,” Greitens said.

“This year, they passed a bill that would put taxpayers on the hook for over $75 million to build and run a conservatory for dancers and art students. I’m vetoing the bill, and I’m ready to fight them on this.”

UMKC’s $48 million in commitments for the project includes $20 million from Julia Irene Kauffman on behalf of the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation, and $7 million from the city of Kansas City.

In the news release, Kauffman said she would still support the project.

“The Downtown Arts Campus will be a critical element of our performing arts community. It needs to happen,” Kauffman said. “That’s why I have supported it.”

UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton said the school’s decision shows the critical role of the arts campus.

“UMKC’s Downtown Campus is critical to maintaining and growing the Conservatory’s impact and the ongoing economic and cultural development of Kansas City’s Downtown Crossroads district,” Morton said in the news release.

The proposed campus would bring an estimated 700 students, faculty and staff to the area on a daily basis, according to UMKC.

However, the project sought the state’s financial backing at a time when the UM System is making steep budget cuts, due in part to shortfalls in appropriations from Jefferson City. Earlier this month, the UM System announced $101 million in budget cuts and the elimination of 474 jobs across its four campuses.

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