Taxpayers need to see CU, CSU game plans

Colorado’s two largest research universities – Colorado State University and the University of Colorado-Boulder – are getting way ahead of themselves and leaving taxpayers behind.

Both of these behemoths have opted to move forward with expensive football stadium construction projects without meeting their commitments to taxpayers to disclose how much private cash they have raised to offset the costs.

Their respective governing boards apparently think that’s OK because they approved moving forward with the projects despite the failure to disclose each school’s private fundraising progress.

The University of Colorado-Boulder, whose Board of Regents is elected, several weeks ago signed off on a groundbreaking for the redo of Folsom Field, the Buffs’ stadium, even though the athletic department had not disclosed how much of the $47.6 million in private money it promised to raise has actually come in.

A similar process occurred at CSU. It too is governed by a public board, although that body is appointed. CSU’s board must formally approve the project before construction can begin.

What gives? We think these boards are out of touch with the taxpayers who built these institutions to begin with and who continue to fund them. You can argue as long as you like about how little state funding these universities receive these days and how much private funding they now must rely upon. But in our view, this absolutely does not erase their obligation to inform the public about how much or how little private cash they’ve raised to give their beloved football stadiums facelifts and new life.

The city of Fort Collins has become concerned enough about the CSU project that it is contemplating forcing the university to sign an intergovernmental agreement detailing the costs the city will have to absorb to create the infrastructure the new stadium will require. This is a step in the right direction because it brings a small measure of transparency and cost accountability to the project.

We call on the CSU board and the CU board to require these schools to disclose how much private money has been raised to offset the cost of these projects and to disclose on an ongoing basis how much private and public money is being spent.
Clarification: An earlier version of this editorial should have noted that Colorado State University’s proposed stadium requires formal approval from its governing board before it can be built. In addition, the editorial said the universities have failed to disclose how much money they promised to raise. In fact, they’ve failed to disclose how much money they’ve actually raised to date.

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