Departments feel impact from carry forward fund cuts

Last week, different departments across campus received information on how much of their carry forward funds would be returned or reallocated.

During the spring 2017 semester, former President Gary Ransdell changed the university policy on carry forward funds. The former policy allowed departments and revenue dependent organizations to retain their unspent money from a fiscal year and save it for later.

The new policy, however, allows a portion or all of the unspent funds to be claimed by WKU to cover the university budget shortfall. After the budget is balanced, funds could be reallocated to the departments.

In the 2017-18 Operating Budget, carry forward funds were estimated to make up 7.2 percent of the budget, which comes to $29.8 million.

Kimberly Reed, assistant vice president for resource management and budget director, said in an email that about one-third of total divisional carry forward funds were distributed to the department heads and were in the process of making specific allocation decisions.

Already, revenue dependent programs, which generate funds independently from the university, have felt an impact from the policy change.

In the 2015-16 operating budget, over 50 organizations, such as the Florist Shop, Imagewest, the Division of Extended Learning and Outreach, or DELO, and the College Heights Herald, were listed as revenue dependent.

The College Heights Herald, a revenue dependent program, was notified of how the carry forward policy change impacted it last week. From the $101,000 in the Herald’s reserve fund, WKU allocated $51,000 to be used toward covering the budget deficit.

Chuck Clark, Student Publications director, said the Herald’s reserves are made up of advertisements primarily sold by students. Clark said it has been a “bad year” for the Herald due to a decline in advertising sales.

Because of this, Clark said the Herald will most likely need to use reserve funds to print the newspaper, maintain the website and pay student staff members.

“I understand the university’s financial predicament, but I’m disappointed by the choice to take a little more than $50,000 from our reserves,” Clark said.

For DELO, allocation of funds are still uncertain. Beth Laves, associate vice president of DELO, said program offerings such as online, summer, winter, On-Demand and Dual Credit courses generate revenue outside of tuition.

This additional revenue is always transferred to academic affairs, where it is allocated to different departments or programs, Laves said. With the policy change, the generated revenue will still go to academic affairs. However, Laves said she believes some of the funds will be used to fill the amount of the budget shortfall academic affairs is responsible for.

For students, there won’t be an immediate impact, Laves said. However, she said she anticipates changes in the next fiscal year and programs in academic affairs will be “curtailed or severely limited.”

Laves said she hopes the carry forward cuts won’t impact availability for summer, winter or online programs. Laves said there are about 2,500 exclusively online learners at WKU and according to a previous Herald article, the program was ranked as one of the top schools in the country for distance learning by the U.S News and World Report.

With the cuts to carry forward and the current budget shortfall the entire university, including DELO, will be looking for more effective ways of operating and changing behavior, Laves said.

In an email, David Lee, provost and vice president of academic affairs, said he “worked with the deans to determine their most pressing needs for the current year.” Lee said the most pressing needs are “largely related to instruction.”

“I then allocated a carry forward amount to each college, and the dean made specific allocations within her/his college,” Lee said. “Aside from DELO, most of our revenue dependent areas fall within colleges, and the deans made those allocations.”

Lee said colleges received carry forward funds generated by course fees, and Kentucky Mesonet, a statewide weather monitoring network, and the Gatton Academy received their “full carry forward.”

Carry forward funds will cover the entire budget deficit, according to Lee.

Reporter Rebekah Alvey can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Reporter Emily DeLetter can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].