WKU could receive refund after court ruling

Monica Kast

Following the Kentucky Supreme Court decision from Thursday, Sept. 22, Kentucky universities could be refunded $18 million that was cut from the state budget with WKU being refunded approximately $1.5 million, according to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

The court also ruled Gov. Matt Bevin did not have the authority to disband the University of Louisville board of trustees. This decision comes after the Court ruled that Bevin did not have the authority to issue mid-year budget cuts earlier this year.

WKU experienced a 4.5 percent tuition increase for the 2016-2017 school year, following a $6.04 million budget adjustment after Bevin issued 2 percent budget cuts, amounting in around $18 million for state universities, earlier this year. Following the cuts, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear sued Bevin on behalf of Kentucky’s universities.

In a statement from Beshear, he said “This case was never about Beshear versus Bevin,” but rather “students, faculty and the rule of law.”

“It’s time for Gov. Bevin to cut the red tape and release the $18 million he wrongfully withheld,” Beshear’s statement read. “These funds are desperately needed at a time when higher education has never been more expensive. It’s time to do the right thing for our students and their families.”

In a video statement posted on YouTube, Bevin said the $18 million that was cut was “not money for students,” and that it accounted for a small percentage of universities’ operating budgets.

“You’re also going to hear people talking about the fact that there’s $18 million that’s currently in an escrow fund that was being contended as it related to higher education,” Bevin said in the video. “That’s money for bureaucrats. That’s not money for students … but the fact of the matter is this: that $18 million was not going to help lower student tuition.”

To offset these budget cuts last semester, WKU allocated $1.5 million from reserve funds.

At the September Board of Regents Committee Meeting, President Gary Ransdell said following the Kentucky Supreme Court decision, university administrators “are breathing a sigh of relief.”

Ransdell said although other universities may choose to use the refunded money differently, WKU would put that money into the reserve funds.

“We’ll replenish our reserve when we get it,” Ransdell said at the committee meeting.

Ann Mead, vice president for finance and administration, said she had not received any “official communication.”

“At this point, we have the same information that you have seen through the media,” Mead wrote in an email. “There hasn’t been any official communication from the Administration yet.”

Additionally, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Sept. 28 Bevin did not have the authority to disband the University of Louisville board of trustees, which he did earlier this year.

“The Governor’s primary power with regard to public universities is the power of appointment of board members,” the Kentucky Supreme Court decision read. “Unlike administrative bodies of state government, the Governor does not hire or fire, or even approve the hiring or firing, of administrators, professors, staff or other personnel.”

Later, the court decision calls Bevin’s action to “abolish and recreate” the board of trustees “wholly inconsistent with the statutory framework of higher education in Kentucky.”

After the Sept. 22 court decision, Beshear asked Bevin to immediately release the $18 million, and join him in “building a better Kentucky.”

“I am also calling on the governor’s office to use today’s ruling as a turning point,” Beshear said in a statement. “It is time for him to stop attacking, and to instead join me in building a better Kentucky.”

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