Western faces possible $6 million budget cut; some faculty, programs may be eliminated

Shawntaye Hopkins

Cuts equal cash. And cash could equal cuts in programs and jobs.

Western and other state agencies have been ordered by the governor to cut their budgets by 2.5 percent to help ease the state’s budget problems.

That means as much as $6 million in budget cuts for Western and it is expected to lead to a loss in programs and jobs throughout the university.

The cut will be at least $3.2 million.

Western administrators are struggling with how they are going to make such cuts in the third quarter of this fiscal year.

Western President Gary Ransdell will meet with state officials this week to find out how the cuts will be made, he said. He will also begin meeting with university vice presidents and deans this week to plan program cuts.

The university will not make “across the board” cuts to departments, Ransdell said. It would be impossible to ask all departments to make cuts by certain percentages, he said.

Ransdell said the budget cuts are inappropriate and unfortunate.

“My real opinion isn’t printable,” Ransdell said.

A $302 million revenue shortfall is expected this year in Kentucky, State Budget Director Brad Cowgill said.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who took office last month, mandated a 2.5 percent budget cut for most state entities last month.

For higher education, that meant a $23 million cut in state funding and $3.2 million for Western.

But the state university presidents were told Wednesday that their schools may be asked to make another $45 million in cuts.

That number represents 2.5 percent of their restricted revenues, which includes tuition, grants and other money included in the university’s overall budget.

That will mean Western may have to slice an additional $2.1 million from its budget, Ransdell said.

The Council on Post-Secondary Education has not decided exactly how the cuts will be made, said Sandy Woodley, vice president for finance at the CPE.

Ransdell said he and other university presidents will meet with CPE staff on Friday in Frankfort to discuss the cuts.

The $45 million in restricted budget cuts is meant to help produce $100 million to carry-over into the 2004-05 fiscal year said Robbin Taylor, director of government relations at Western. The $45 million cut could also be reduced.

The Fletcher administration is hopeful that universities will not have to make program cuts and layoffs, Cowgill said.

It was easier to make university cuts than public school cuts because the amount of funds universities have available are greater, he said.

The money universities acquire, including tuition and money from ticket sales, belongs to the state, Cowgill said.

Universities still have money to use, he said.

“I think it’s important to remember that at the end of the day we haven’t completely taken the hamburger away,” he said.

But there are concerns regarding the status of higher education in Kentucky if cuts continue.

“You can’t cut education, particularly higher education, and expect any growth and economic development or quality of life for our population,” Ransdell said.

Western and Northern Kentucky University received the most state funding this year, and therefore will have to give back the most of the $23 million cut in unrestricted revenue, Ransdell said.

But if asked to give 2.5 percent of restricted funds, the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville will be hurt the most because they have greater budgets, Ransdell said.

The Fletcher administration wants to remedy the state’s budget programs without increasing taxes, Cowgill said.

Cowgill said Kentuckians expressed a desire during the campaign to see the state fix revenue problems without raising taxes.

Ransdell, despite frustrations, still remains somewhat optimistic about the university’s future.

“We will get through this and we will continue to make progress and fund our priorities in an effective manner,” he said.

Reach Shawntaye Hopkins at [email protected]