WKU could lose $5 million in funding

Cameron Koch

Proposed budget cuts in Frankfort will soon be reaching WKU as the university faces some of the most severe state budget cuts in recent memory.

Gov. Steve Beshear’s proposed state budget for the next two years includes a 6.4 percent cut across all post-secondary education. That translates into WKU having about $5 million less in state allocations than it has had in previous years.

Despite increasing enrollment, since 2008, WKU has lost more than $10 million in state funding.

President Gary Ransdell made clear the gravity of the situation at the Board of Regents meeting on Friday, .

Though the school has experienced budget cuts before, never has it suffered through a cut this large, Ransdell said.

“We weren’t completely surprised. We saw this coming,” Ransdell said. “But I’m an eternal optimist. I was optimistic for maybe even a break-even budget.”

Ransdell explained that WKU has been doing all the easy things to save money in past years to deal with budget cuts, but all the easy options have been exhausted.

“We’ve done the easy things,” Ransdell said. “We’ve created new efficiency, saved money on utilities, converted from coal to natural gas, closed for extra days to save energy, but we’ve not laid a single employee off.

“We will do everything we possibly can to preserve jobs, preserve employment. We’re dedicated to that. We’ve got our hands full.”

Despite a tough budget, Ransdell said WKU wasn’t going to stop its current plans to save money and is still intent on filling around 77 vacant positions on campus.

“We’re moving forward with every one of those searches,” Ransdell said. “If you do a hiring freeze, how do you know the position you freeze isn’t more important than one that is already filled?”

Though the proposed budget cuts are steep, they are not yet final.

The proposed budget must be approved and can be altered by both the Kentucky House of Representatives and Senate before going back to Beshear for approval.

Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, who sits on the Budget Review Subcommittee for Postsecondary Education, believes that while there will be cuts, they may turn out being less severe than the governor has proposed.

“Nothing is definite. What the governor has proposed is not the final deal,” DeCesare said. “It’s my hope that as we get into the budget process, we can make it so where they aren’t so severe.

“I hope we can minimize cuts as much as possible,” DeCesare said. “We need to prioritize. Education is one of our most vital areas that we need to fund as fully as possible.”

Ransdell said that while there might be some changes, WKU is preparing for the worst.

“I don’t anticipate a lot of changes to the governor’s budget,” Ransdell said.

“We will work hard to figure out how to do this, but I can’t begin to tell you how.”