State should spread budget cuts

It now appears that Western’s budget will inevitably be cut during the state’s financial crunch.

Though we knew the cut would probably come, we had hoped for the best. But now we’re forced to accept the harsh truth and try to protect as much of Western’s funding as possible.

While a loss seems certain, how much will be gone remains fuzzy. As of now, Western will likely part with about $1.4 million, but that number could be considerably lower or higher, depending on the final wording of the state’s still-unapproved budget.

In the meantime, Kentucky’s school teachers will descend on Frankfort next week to protest potential cuts in K-12 funding.

The teachers are right to try to protect K-12. But they seem to have overlooked a crucial fact: If the state spares K-12 — which requires more state funding than any other department — higher education could be forced to pick up the slack.

Under those conditions, the state’s universities would likely face at least a 6 percent cut in their operating budgets, with as much as a 9 percent cut looming next year.

Well, that’s not going to work.

These are difficult times for all state-funded entities. So it seems fair to us for every state department to be asked to contribute evenly to the budget recovery.

Instead of quarreling over which departments have to pay and how much, the legislature should determine a standard percentage-based cut for all departments.

State-funded departments have tried to plan for the coming cuts, but that’s awfully hard to do when the projected losses keep changing.

The establishment of a percentage-based cut would remove the guesswork.

Western has set aside enough unbudgeted tuition revenue to cover a $1.4 million cut. Anything more than that could leave the university scrambling.

President Gary Ransdell has said that a bigger cut could force Western to suspend searches to fill nearly 100 full-time faculty vacancies, which might cause the student-to-faculty ratio to suffer. Construction projects could be halted. Funding for on-campus maintenance could be slashed.

Sure, a percentage-based cut might cost some departments whose budgets may not have otherwise been slashed. But it will also save money for instituions like Western, which can’t afford to give much more back to the state.

There’s no reason for Western and its fellow universities to slog through disproportionately high cuts while K-12 or any other state department escapes unscathed.

With the state legislature now in session, we urge lawmakers to spread the damage.

An across-the-board cut won’t be easy for any department. But without it, some of us could be hit much too hard.

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Herald’s 10-member board of student editors.