Caboni announces $16 million in cuts

Tim Caboni looks down at his phone in between meetings on Friday Feb. 10, 2017. Caboni met with members of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas University Alumni Association, and the KU Marketing and Communications department.

With the state budget finally finalized, President Timothy Caboni said a second round of cuts will take place to decrease the university’s budget by $16 million. 

With the reduction Caboni announced Monday evening, the cut to WKU’s budget would be about $31 million, or between 9 or 10 percent, of the university’s unrestricted education and general fund.

In an email late Monday to faculty and staff, Caboni said WKU has many of the details needed to finalize the university’s budget for the coming year.

In the first phase of cuts, WKU eliminated 119 full-time positions and one part-time position across the university to address a $15 million deficit. Those eliminations were recommended by the Budget Council to reduce the university’s workforce. The total budgeted salaries of the vacant and filled positions that were eliminated amount to over $5 million.

University College was also eliminated and the three regional campuses were returned to the management of the Division of Extended Learning and Outreach. Provost David Lee previously announced the reorganization of University College.

For the second round, Caboni said the Budget Council will not be involved. Instead, deans and division heads will be making recommendations as to how they plan to manage their respective reductions. He said they will also avoid across-the-board cuts. 

“We also will strive to maintain support of those areas operating at critical levels, specifically those with direct responsibility for student recruitment and retention. Finally, we will strive to achieve a balanced budget with as little job loss as possible,” Caboni said in the email. 

Divisions will manage a reduction of $5.7 million and the remainder will be managed with a combination of $1.6 million in new revenue and $5 million in savings through “reorganization, attrition and elimination of vacant positions.”

About $4 million in carry forward funds will also be used. Caboni said there will be a new budget model in fiscal year 2019-20. 

In an April 3 email, Caboni said the biennial budget presented challenges to WKU.

These challenges include a 6.25 percent cut for higher education, reduction in funding for Gatton Academy and no direct relief for WKU’s contribution payments to the Kentucky Employees Retirement System.

The cut would amount to a loss of $4.6 million for WKU. However, Caboni said a portion of this would be returned to the performance funding pool for WKU to gain back.

In the budget, there is also a 2 percent reduction in funding to support the Gatton Academy, which is $75,000 over two years. The Kentucky Mesonet is fully funded in the budget, which Gov. Matt Bevin had originally zeroed out in his proposed budget. 

No direct relief is included for WKU’s employer contribution payments to the KERS, and Caboni anticipates those costs to significantly increase. 

The budget also includes language which would allow universities to eliminate tenured faculty positions when an academic program is discontinued. 

Caboni has previously said current guidelines set by the American Association of University Professors provides a “fair, reasonable and effective pathway to manage downsizing or elimination of academic programs.”

“I am strongly committed to following those guidelines and to protecting the integrity of tenure and academic freedom as we work together to address the current financial challenges facing WKU,” he said.

In the email, Caboni said members of the President’s Cabinet and deans are identifying strategies for the reductions across the divisions. 

“I know this is a difficult process, but the goal is to create a realistic and stable institutional budget so we can position ourselves for healthy, sustainable growth in future years,” he said. “I appreciate your patience and continued good work, and I am confident we will be a stronger, more focused university going forward.”

Earlier this year, Caboni said WKU could have a budget deficit as large as $40 million. The $40 million comes from our $15 million deficit, the state cut of $4.6 million, WKU’s nearly $9 million pension obligation and an anticipated $10 million deficit from enrollment changes and fixed costs.