New leadership and goals set for budget council

Rebekah Alvey

WKU has recently restructured the budgetary council’s leadership and goals to better handle revenue shortfalls, according to university administrators.

At the Board of Regents committee meeting on Friday, Sept. 22, President Timothy Caboni discussed the new charges and goals for the council. Caboni said the new goals involve looking at budget models from other universities, the performance based funding model, handling past and potential revenue shortfall and realigning expenditure investments in a way to reward performance.

“[The budget council] is advisory to the president,” Caboni said at the meeting. “But I’m pushing them for more advice than they may have delivered previously.”

In an interview, Caboni said the new budget model will be more transparent and will reward performance. This is also the first time the budget will use carry forward funds, which previously allowed individual departments to use any leftover funds how they chose.

Under the new policy, carry forward funds will first be used to cover any revenue shortfall before going back to departments. The fiscal year 2017-18 budget is estimated to use $29,819,000 of carry forward funds, according to the 2017-2018 budget.

In a charge set for the council, Caboni said he hopes to create a budget model that weans off using carry forward funds and looking at how other universities have done this.

With the restructuring of the council, Caboni also appointed Indudeep S. Chhachhi, chair of the department of finance, to be chair of the budget council. Chhachhi has previously served on the council as a representative from the University Senate for five years.

Chhachhi said the council is made up of faculty, staff and a student to create a diverse group. Junior Savannah Molyneaux, the executive Vice President of SGA, is the student representative on the budget council.

Molyneaux said to her knowledge there has always been an executive member of SGA who serves on the council to represent the student voice.

“Something as huge as our budget should have many voices,” Molyneaux said.

Chhachhi said the main difference between former President Gary Ransdell and Caboni’s councils is the charges given to the council. He said under Ransdell, the council was making suggestions on how to utilize new money. Now, the council is looking at the entire budget, Chhachhi said.

Chhachhi said the council is focused on making incentives for WKU to succeed. He explained incentives as encouragement for departments, colleges and individuals to do entrepreneurial things that contribute to the local economy, state and university.

Even though Chhachhi said the financial environment is “tougher” than it was years ago, he said the mission of the university hasn’t changed and they are focused on what can be created on WKU’s campus.

“Our mission is to educate as many Kentuckians as we can and to contribute to the economy of the commonwealth,” Chhachhi said.

With discussion of cuts to pension and education, Chhachhi said the council is fully aware of the enormity of the charge and the possibility for cuts. However he said the council is confident if they keep WKU’s mission a priority, they can find solutions and make recommendations that are “good for all.”

On the council, Chhachhi said transparency and accountability are front and center. Molyneaux said while some decisions must remain confidential, making sure the public understands the budget is important for the council.

As a student, Molyneaux said there can be a lot of confusion about where her money is going, and she hopes to make that clear to other students. She also said Caboni has aimed to be transparent and hands-on in his role, which she said is a change from the previous administration.

As her work with the council continues, Molyneaux said she plans to meet with SGA senators about their ideas for the budget or what they hope to see funded. She also said she hopes to hear more student voices through private meetings with students.

Chhachhi said the recommendations from the budget council will be made Feb. 1. After that, he said there is no finalized schedule for the council.

Reporter Rebekah Alvey can be reached at 270-745-6011 and rebekah.alvey6[email protected].