Note: This story by Larry Rulison appeared in Wednesday’s edition of the Times Union.
SUNY Polytechnic Institute has yet to receive a $25 million loan that was approved by the state university system’s board of trustees back in September, although it appears the school may be closer to getting the money.
SUNY trustees approved the money during their Sept. 12 meeting in Saratoga Springs, though it was a decision contingent upon SUNY Poly officials providing Chancellor Kristina Johnson with a three-year income statement and budget plan for the school, along with a detailed plan on how it plans to use the money and improve its finances.
At the September meeting, Johnson said those financial statements had to be completed “fairly rapidly.”
But nearly three months later, the budget and financial plan have yet to find their way to Johnson’s desk so that the $25 million loan can be approved.
“That plan is currently being finalized, and will be sent to the chancellor for her review,” SUNY spokeswoman Holly Liapis said Tuesday.
It is unclear exactly why the process has taken so long, although Liapis said SUNY Poly as well as the SUNY Research Foundation and the system’s central administration have been “working together on the issue of the campuses’ finances since last year.”
A spokesman for SUNY Poly referred all questions to SUNY central. The Research Foundation administers grants for SUNY Poly and other schools in the system.
It wasn’t widely known that SUNY Poly had failed to complete the financial projections needed for the loan until state Comptroller’s Thomas DiNapoli’s office issued a memo late last month asking a state control board to postpone the approval of a separate $38.5 million grant for SUNY Poly.
The memo was written on Nov. 27 to state budget director Robert Mujica Jr., who is chair of the state Public Authorities Control Board. The PACB approved the $38.5 million that day in a special meeting despite a plea by DiNapoli’s office that the vote should be delayed until more detailed information about the school’s finances was available.
The comptroller’s memo said that according to Empire State Development Corp., the state’s economic development arm, “as of earlier this month, such (financial plans) had not yet been developed. The broad picture of (SUNY Poly’s) financial needs, including future debt and financial requirements, is unclear.”
It is also unclear exactly why SUNY Poly has had financial problems.
Shortly after his appointment a year ago, interim SUNY Poly President Bahgat Sammakia said that the school had to trim its budget and needed state financial assistance to remain sustainable going forward.
It is unclear if that had anything to do with the departure of SUNY Poly founder Alain Kaloyeros, who left the school in October 2016 after he was accused of participating in a bid-rigging scheme. Kaloyeros has denied any wrongdoing, and SUNY officials have yet to say what caused the school’s most recent financial problems — except for the fact that its largest building, NanoFab X, has been half-empty since the end of 2016.
SUNY officials said in September that they were negotiating with three potential tenants and hoped to have the space filled soon.
Three months later, no announcements along those lines have been made.