WSU maintenance backlog continues to increase

Nearly 300 requests are deferred every month

BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor

WSU has a deferred maintenance backlog of over $1.6 billion due to years of work requests being unable to be completed. The deferred backlog refers to requests for maintenance campus-wide.

Joe Kline, assistant vice president of facilities services operations and capital, said that facilities services receive around 900 requests per month on average, but can only work through 600 of those requests on average. 

“Starting from a high level, the university has a deferred maintenance backlog of about $1.6 billion. That is sort of measured by work that should be done in the buildings, but for resource issues, we have not gotten to them,” Kline said. 

One major reason all of the requests are not responded to is the amount of requests is high to begin with and facility services are too understaffed to be able to respond to the up to and over the 900 requests they receive, he said. 

When working on the prioritization of the requests, it comes down to if the building can operate with the problem or not, or if it creates a hazard for anyone that may be around the cause of the request, Kline said. 

“In our system, we are able to assign priority to the work requests that come in. I like to say if it is leaking, smoking or steaming we attempt to respond right away. Then those things that are sort of less critical, they tend to fall to the bottom of the list,” he said. 

The main focus of the requests is to allow for all buildings to remain operational, specifically buildings that are used for classes, and labs or have constant foot traffic. If it is something as simple as a stain on the carpet, that is something that is usually put toward the bottom of the list in terms of priority, Kline said. 

“The way that we try to prioritize those is that we want everything to work the way it is supposed to, like if it is a classroom building they can have classes; if it is a lab building, they can have labs,” he said. 

With the new university budget model, there is optimism that with increased funding, facility services will at the very least be able to slow the number of deferred requests added to the backlog on a monthly basis, Kline said. 

“A budget model is just how we allocate the resources of the university. One of the key things to understand is that changing the model does not change the resources, it just changes how we slice the pie up,” said Kelley Westhoff, executive director of budget, planning, and analysis. 

The new budget model, an RCM (responsibility center management) model, will allow for more strategic spending for the colleges and universities, and hopefully lead to more transparency on how spending and resources will be allocated, she said.

As for deferred maintenance, there is the ability within the new model to use some strategic funds and identify them and budget for them year over year for deferred maintenance, Westhoff said. 

“With our current level of funding and staffing, we have been working with central administration to try gradually increasing the funding for facilities such that we can slow the increase in deferred maintenance and potentially someday start to work through that backlog,” Kline said.