Caboni makes changes to address budget shortfall

Monica Kast

Only crucial job openings will be filled and all pay raises and promotions will be frozen in an effort to address the “significant financial concerns” of WKU, President Timothy Caboni said in an email Monday afternoon.

The changes were announced as WKU faces a budget shortfall of more than $10 million which will be temporarily filled using unspent money from last year’s budget, and a predicted decline in WKU’s enrollment, which will officially be known on Thursday, according to Caboni’s email.

In order to address the financial concerns, Caboni announced an approval process for all personnel actions. Caboni said the reason for this is a large number of financial difficulties WKU currently faces, including a “structural imbalance” of more than $10 million.

He said Ann Mead, senior vice president for finance and administration, will “oversee an approval process for all personnel actions, beginning immediately.”

Personnel actions will go through the Personnel Actions Approval Committee, which will review “all requests to fill positions,” according to the email. Additionally, “reclassifications, temporary rate increases, salary adjustments and stipends also will be put on hold for the foreseeable future,” according to the email.

“Only those positions that meet critical needs, meet strict standards for strategic needs, result in cost savings or efficiencies or are deemed to fulfill essential services will be approved to proceed,” Caboni’s email reads.

According to the email, this includes all full-time and part-time faculty and staff positions, but excludes positions funded by grants. Searches for positions that are currently underway, like the search for the director of the School of Journalism and Broadcasting, will not be affected. Mead also confirmed that the searches for the provost and the dean of the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences are already underway and will not be affected.

Caboni noted this action “will create short term discomfort for all of us across campus.” However, he said this action was what was best for “the entire university and our collective future.”

Tony Glisson, director of human resources, sent an email containing personnel actions approval procedures. Glisson said the new procedures are temporary but will be “implemented university-wide” and will apply to all full-time, part-time and temporary positions.

In order to be approved by the Personnel Actions Approval Committee, a request must meet at least one of two criteria, according to Glisson’s email.

If not filling the position would result in WKU being “out of compliance with external regulatory requirements or accreditation standards,” it may be considered critical and exempt from the hiring freeze. Additionally, if the position is necessary for WKU to meet defined goals, reorganize in a way that would result in saving money, improve student recruitment and retention or “address essential services and functions,” it may also be considered by the committee, according to Glisson’s email.

A request for review by the Personnel Actions Approval Committee must meet one of the above requirements, according to the email.

Mead said it was not known how much money would be saved by using this approach.

“However, this process will result in a more frugal approach to our decision making,” Mead said in an email. “Not all vacancies are predictable. There will be justifiable circumstances where departments will be authorized to proceed based on certain positions being essential for services continuity.”

Mead said while it is not known how much this change will save the university, the fiscal year 2018 budget was constructed with “the anticipation we will need $10,976,000 in carry forward to cover our expenses,” and the recently announced changes will allow for more flexibility in the future.

“This change related to filling positions is to give us maximum flexibility for future budgets,” Mead said.

News editor Monica Kast can be reached at 270-745-6011 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @monica_kast.