Board of Regents approve 2013-14 operating budget

Elliott Pratt

Paying debt on the proposed $22 million Honors College and  International Center, at a time when the university budget is shrinking, saw the most debate at a special budget approval Board of Regents meeting on Friday in Mass Media and Technology Hall.

All items on the agenda were passed by the board, including the budget reduction of $2.1 million dollars for fiscal year 2013-14, though not without some debate.

The $22 million Honors College and International Center was the main debate during the budget proposal. The new increased expenditure of $1.1 million will add new debt that Student Regent Cory Dodds said is unnecessary.

“When you introduce a new debt with the Honors College and the International Center, I feel like with the budget being based on fall 2011 numbers and introducing such new debt for something that is just a want, I think it makes push the budget,” Dodds said.

Faculty regent Patricia Minter said after the Finance and Budget Committee meeting that the success of the proposed budget relies too heavily on international students.

“Based on the projections that we received and the fact that it’s getting more competitive for international students, I have serious questions about whether or not we’ll be able to maintain international enrollment, let alone grow it in order to make that bond payment,” Minter said. “I have a secondary concern about doing a building where the debt payment is done on the backs of international students.”

The Navitas revenue growth and expenditure model projects an annual revenue of $1.1 million in the spring of 2014. That number is projected to triple, up to $3.3 million, by the spring of 2016.

Minter said she doesn’t believe those numbers are reachable.

“It’s a very aggressive growth model that I don’t think is realistic,” Minter said. “I hope the board will consider the serious implications of this. With enrollment not as stable as we’d like, then this is something that we should be considering very carefully.”

Dodds and Faculty Regent Patti Minter were the only two regents to vote against the budget proposal.

The board also approved the issuance and sales of $37 million worth of bonds to fund the Downing University Center renovations during the Finance and Budget Committee meeting. 

President Gary Ransdell was pleased with the overall result of the special meeting.

“Terrific board meeting,” Ransdell said. “Great dialogue, great conversation; a lot of information was shared. I thought it was insightful with a lot of substance and preparation.”

The Board will make the final vote on the proposed budget at the third quarterly meeting on July 26.

Action items approved from the Academic Affairs committee were the approval of: a Kitchen and Bath Undergraduate Certificate, consolidation of three university college academic units into the School of Professional Studies, name change of the Office of Graduate Studies to The Graduate School, the creation of a Center for Financial Success at the Gordon Ford College of Business, and the appointment of two WKU professors – Kam Chan and Claus Ernst – as University Distinguished Professors.