Caboni addresses lawmakers in plea for stable education funding

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President Timothy Caboni traveled to Frankfort on Thursday to campaign for funding for postsecondary education.

Caboni spoke to members of the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education. He spent most of his time in front of the subcommittee focusing on how past and future cuts to state funding have and will impact WKU. The university is currently faces a $40 million budget deficit which will increase with cuts to state funds.

“We’ve passed the point of being able to manage through with across-the-board cuts and finding efficiencies,” Caboni said according to prepared remarks sent to the Herald. “So the question we are asking ourselves is what good things are we doing now that we can no longer afford to do?”

WKU has had a net loss of $11.2 million in state funds since 2009, according to Caboni’s presentation. In 2009, state appropriations were 25 percent of WKU’s budget. This fiscal year, state funds were 18 percent of the budget. WKU received $74 million from the state this fiscal year. With Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed budget cuts, that sum will drop to $69 million for the next fiscal year.

Bevin has proposed across-the-board budget cuts for all state agencies, including postsecondary education. The 6.25 percent proposed cuts would mean a loss of $4.6 million for WKU.

When combined with the current $15 million deficit, the loss of $750,000 that funds the Kentucky Mesonet and the $7.3 million pension increase, WKU could have a $27.6 million budget reduction. Caboni said the reduction is expected to be greater because of the expected continued decrease in international enrollment.

This drop in funding is nothing new. State funds have decreased four out of the past ten years, according to Caboni’s budget presentation. In the past 20 years, net appropriations per student have fluctuated, but the overall result has been a decrease of $4,514 per student in 1998-1999 to around $4,373 in the next two fiscal years.

“Unfortunately, as the state portion has been unstable and ultimately flat, the portion paid by students and their families has increased substantially over this time period,” Caboni said.

Caboni also presented to the subcommittee WKU’s plan to combat the reductions. He appointed a Budget Council this past fall to make recommendations on how to reduce the budget by $15 million. He said he expects the council’s report to be finished in a few weeks and then they will start “the grueling task of reducing our workforce.” He did not saw how many jobs or programs or which ones would be cut.

“Once you all pass the budget, we will go through this exercise again – using the Budget Council to make recommendations on the next phase of reductions,” Caboni said. “Again, that will mean further job loss and program elimination.”

Caboni said he will also use the strategic planning process he put in place to create a budget that will be in line with WKU’s priorities. He said a team of professionals, Huron Consulting, will help WKU change its budget model.

“My charge is to lead WKU through the next phase – and we’re in the process now as a campus community of defining what that will be,” Caboni said. “Given our significant budget challenges and the changing landscape of higher education nationally, as well as in Kentucky, we have a lot of significant work to do. What we need most from you [the state] is stable and predictable funding.”

News editor Emma Collins can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected] Follow Emma on Twitter at @_mccain_emma_.