Regents committees cover salary changes, line of credit, baseball coach contract extension in meeting

President+Timothy+Caboni+listens+during+the+Board+of+Regents+meeting+on+April+12%2C+2019.+The+Board+of+Regents+discussed+future+budget+cuts+during+its+meeting+on+Friday.

President Timothy Caboni listens during the Board of Regents meeting on April 12, 2019. The Board of Regents discussed future budget cuts during its meeting on Friday.

Salary changes, some including increases more than 25%, were approved today at the Board Regents committee meetings among other action items to be sent to the quarterly meeting.

The session came in advance of the Board of Regents’ upcoming meeting on Dec. 10, where the items will be put forth for final approval by the full board. 

The Finance and Budget committee’s salary decisions spanned hundreds of positions across varying areas of the university. 

According to Staff Regent David Brinkley, who received a $25, 428 raise, the changes aim to restructure and streamline departments. Brinkley is the director of educational telecommunications.

“A couple of [fiscal years] ago, [my department] was spending 63% on salary and fringe of all of our expenditures,” Brinkley said. “In [fiscal year] ‘22, that number is 50%, so not only have we reduced the amount of our percentage going toward salary and fringe, we’ve streamlined the other ways that we’re spending money to allow that to happen.”

Andrea Sherrill, interim director of Human Resources, said in an email that salary decisions were made based on “consultation between the divisional leader and Human Resources.”

Each change is categorized based on different justifications, including reclassification, reorganization and transfer. These positions consist of employees who’s “job title, salary grade and/or salary are changed as the result of a material increase in duties/responsibilities.”

“[In these categories,] a new job description was developed resulting in changes to the individual’s core functions and number of direct reports, which necessitated a change in salary,” Sherrill said. “Divisional leaders have always had the authority to reorganize structures and reclassify positions based on the changing needs and goals of their respective divisions. Unless a change was identified as a critical need for the University, existing divisional funding was used to cover increases in salary.”

The following reclassified employees saw pay increases of 15% or higher:

In the Finance & Budget Committee packet, many of the salary changes have a date in the year 2021, many already passed, in the “Effective Date” column in the chart laying the changes out. All of the reclassification salary changes are retroactive.

These changes come after 125 staff and faculty left the university in May, a result of the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program that paid eligible employees to retire early with the goal of “creating opportunities to reimagine, rethink and reorganize” the way the university operates, according to President Timothy Caboni.

“For those who don’t like this: too bad,” Caboni said. “This is the future. We’re going to be nimble, we’re going to be quick, we’re going to be innovative and we’re going to do things that are in the best interest of the institution, not just do what we’ve always done before.”

The individual changes in pay seek to better match market prices for positions at similar universities and reflect changes in responsibilities that occured in the last year.

WKU announced on Oct. 13 that all faculty and staff hired on or before Aug. 1 will receive a 1.5% salary increase at the start of 2022.

The Finance and Budget committee presented an item to renew an unsecured $10 million line of credit for the university as well as salary and personnel changes, both of which passed unanimously.

WKU agreed to a line of credit with Truist Bank in 2020 as a “financially prudent” measure to ensure the university has funding available on short notice, Executive Vice President for Strategy, Operations and Finance Susan Howarth said.

It is the second year WKU has sought a line of credit from Truist, formerly known as BB&T. Last year’s line of credit was never utilized, even while adapting to pandemic changes, and Howarth does not anticipate having to utilize it this year. 

Howarth said financial standards usually recommend 110 days of cash on hand, while the university has about 190 days’ worth, which “bodes well for the university.”

Indudeep Chhachhi, department chair and professor of finance, spoke to the Herald prior to the meeting to explain what lines of credit mean for an institution’s financial standing.

“[Lines of credit] are, in effect, commitments that have been made by a bank that they’re willing to loan x number of dollars to you whenever you want,” Chhachhi said. 

The agreement is unsecured, meaning WKU did not offer collateral to the bank; however, even if WKU does not request money, there are still costs associated with reserving funds.

“The bank is basically saying ‘listen, you want me to have a million dollars available to you at any point of time over the next year or two years, you’re gonna have to pay me something to keep that money available to be loaned out,’” Chhachhi said.

Chhachhi said lines of credit in recent years aren’t necessarily signs of a precarious financial future, but he still has questions about the university’s need for them.

“The question I would have as a finance person is very simply, why?” Chhacchi said. “What’s the anticipated need? What kind of things are the university anticipating or concerned about?”

Haworth said she does not expect any disaster which would require using the line, but that it serves as a “safety net.”

The Academic Affairs Committee brought forth emeritus appointments for 57 professors across all five academic colleges. The motion received complete approval from the committee. Provost Robert Fischer gave a presentation on the Academic Affairs department and its plan moving forward.

“Some of the areas of importance where they’re moving the university forward are things such as creating high quality programs, making sure we have the best possible programs for the students as well as associated with those programs making sure they have learning opportunities both inside and outside the classroom that are high impact,” Fischer said.

He also spoke on accreditation and goals of the department.

The Student Affairs Committee had no action items to present at the meeting, but did have a presentation on Greek Life at the university by Ethan Logan, vice president of enrollment and student experience. He had four student leaders from Greek Life join him for the presentation.

The Executive Committee presented one action item at the meeting focused on extending the contract of baseball head coach John Pawlowski. The addendum on the contract extends his time at the university till 2025.

Board of Regents Chair Phillip Bale made a reminder about the presidential evaluation.

“I have been encouraging everyone to fill out the president evaluation,” Bale said “The annual right of filling that out, which is one of the most important functions that we do as Regents, offers an opportunity to give feedback to our president with any constructive criticism or ideas.”

Bale also said the Regents had been sent the dates for Spring Commencement that have been changed so they “don’t conflict with the Kentucky Derby.”

At the end of the meeting, Bale turned it over to Caboni who commented on the ongoing conference realignment occurring within Conference-USA.

“The presidents in the conference have been working hard with their colleagues to talk about the future of Conference-USA,” Caboni said.

Editor-in-Chief Lily Burris can be reached at [email protected] wku.edu. Follow her on Twitter @lily_burris.

Content Manager Michael J. Collins can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @mjcollinsnews.