Transitional retirement leads in the Regents’ last meeting of 2019

President Timothy Caboni listens to fellow speakers at the Board of Regents meeting on Feb. 23 in Jody Richards Hall. Caboni announced plans for dealing with the budget and its shortfalls going forward. “This is the worst decision anyone in a leadership position has to make,” Caboni said at the end of the meeting.

WKU President Timothy Caboni’s recommendation to change the language in a faculty transitional retirement program policy was approved during the Board of Regents meeting Friday.

The new provisions will come into effect on Jan. 1. The measure outlines requirements in the process of retirement and potential future re-employment by WKU.

Initially, the program followed the basic tenants of the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System, but an optional 403(b) retirement program came into effect in 1996 that included various return-to-work provisions.

This September, WKU received notice from the Retirement System of Kentucky expressing concern over the re-employment of employees who leave the institution under this retirement system. 

With the approval of the proposed changes, a full-time faculty member may be eligible to teach for a maximum of 12 semester hours or to work in a part-time administrative position for one year.

Annual performance reviews were taken off, and the amount of time employees can be placed in a special, part-time faculty category was changed to one year rather than the previous five years.

Faculty members who are transitioning into retirement through this program have less time to receive benefits before they are categorized as fully retired.

Because of a reduction in time, faculty members won’t have as much time to receive selected benefits administered through the Department of Human Resources in addition to their aforementioned salary.

In other business, the board conducted two oaths during the meeting.

New Regent Sheldon McKinney was sworn in under oath by Chair Frederick Higdon. McKinney hails from Fleming County and advocates for agriculture education in Kentucky, as well as Future Farmers of America. Higdon gifted McKinney a pin once officially sworn in as a regent.

“She is passionate about developing high quality education and leadership opportunities that are accessible for all our students,” Higdon said.

Regent Jason McKinney was also sworn in as the new vice chair. McKinney was voted into his position unanimously. 

Another talking point of Friday’s meeting was the approval of sabbatical leave, a request which was not presented at the committee meeting on Oct. 27. The approval of these requests carried over to the meeting on Friday afternoon. Twelve WKU staff members requested sabbatical leave.

All 12 requests were approved.

“I’m very delighted that this has not been cut in times of flooded professions, this is a privilege for faculty, it’s something everyone looks forward to do,” Regent Claus Ernst said. “And it is a chance to rest, to do research, and to recharge for the upcoming period of seven years.” 

The Regents were asked to approve the WKU Police Department’s allocated funds for renovations in Friday’s meeting. WKUPD has been storing away funds for five years to complete a renovation of their on-campus facilities. The renovation would cost an estimated 1.1 million dollars. 

“This is well beyond time necessary for them to continue functioning efficiently,” said WKU President Tim Caboni. “To the police department kudos for being proactive, and I was going to say squirreling away money, but white squirreling away money.”

The Regents were asked to cover a final allocation of about 400 thousand dollars and unanimously voted to allow WKUPD to remove the funds from their allocations and put it into new planned renovations.

During the meeting, Regent Julie Hinson presented two philanthropic commitments, previously stated in a press release.

The two endowments are going towards the intercultural engagement center and student publications. The commitments total to 110 thousand dollars.

“You’ve been nothing but supportive to the students of this community,” Caboni said to Hinson.