General Assembly approves two-year budget, includes funding for new GFCB building


Grise Hall is home to the Gordon Ford Business College at Western Kentucky University, which will eventually be moved to a new business school building to the site between Jody Richards Hall and South Lawn, adjacent to the Guthrie Bell Tower.

Debra Murray, Content Editor

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with clarification from WKU Director of Media Relations Jace Lux and Chief of Facilities Bryan Russell.

Editor’s Note: WKU Director of Media Relations Jace Lux and Chief of Facilities Bryan Russell have been contacted for further clarification about the new GFCB building. This story will be updated with their comments when they become available.

WKU will receive $74.4 million from the state to construct a new Gordon Ford College of Business building under the 2022-24 budget approved this week by the Kentucky General Assembly.

The new building, which is to be built on South Lawn where Tate Page Hall used to stand, is funded in the second year of a budget that includes several allocations that affect WKU. 

The budget also calls for 8% raises for state workers in 2022-23 and another 12% in 2023-24 – but not for employees at state universities such as WKU. “WKU is in the process of completing a compensation analysis to review and address faculty and staff salaries,” WKU spokesman Jace Lux said via email. 

The legislature’s two-year budget for the state, which is now on Gov. Andy Beshear’s desk, to either sign into law or veto, sets WKU’s base general fund allocation from the state for 2022-23 at $79.2 million –  up from $73.3 million in 2021-22 – and nearly $84 million for 2023-24.

Since the $79.2 million figure for FY23 includes debt service on state bonds to support asset preservation and new construction, WKU’s FY23 general fund base is really $78 million, which represents an increase of $1 million from FY22, according to Lux.

In addition, it provides more than $34 million each year to address deferred maintenance on campus, but WKU must match 15 percent of that amount.

In an email to WKU faculty and staff, President Timothy Caboni said: “The budget includes significant investments in higher education for the first time in more than a decade… I want to thank our leaders in the General Assembly for their extraordinary support of WKU and postsecondary education.”

Included in the general fund budget for WKU are:

  •  $1.75 million each year for the Kentucky Mesonet, a network of weather and climate observation sites throughout the state that WKU manages. That’s an increase of $1 million each year.
  •   LifeWorks at WKU will receive $2.8 million from the State Fiscal Recovery Fund of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Life Works is a two-year transition program for adults with autism, which allows people to transition to living alone and working. 
  • The state will pay 100% of WKU’s pension subsidy obligation for the Kentucky Employees Retirement System in 2022-23, or nearly $3.6 million, and 90% of that amount in 2023-24. KERS covers nonprofessional workers at WKU, and the subsidy is required to make up for the state under funding its pension systems for years.
  • Nearly $5 million each year for Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky, the program for gifted high schoolers that operates out of Florence Schneider Hall. It’s the same amount currently allocated.
  • The state higher education performance pool – money for which public universities compete based on enrollment, degrees awarded, retention rates, graduation rates and other factors – was set at $97.3 million each year. In 2021-22, WKU received about $1.4 million in performance pool money.
  • Lawmakers set aside $10 million in 2022-23 for the statewide “Bucks for Brains” programs at comprehensive universities such as WKU, EKU, NKU, Murray State and Morehead State. Bucks for Brains is an endowment match program to “encourage research and strengthen key programs at Kentucky universities,” according to the WKU website.

The money for the Gordon Ford building is the first allocation for a capital project that WKU has received from the state since Ogden College Hall was funded in 2014; that building opened in 2018.

WKU’s campus master plan, which was approved by the Board of Regents in 2020, calls for the new business school building to occupy the site between Jody Richards Hall and South Lawn, adjacent to the Guthrie Bell Tower.

“WKU is currently still in the very early stages of beginning to work with a designer. Until a number of preliminary details are worked out, we do not yet have a definitive timeline for the start or completion of building construction,” Lux said via email.

The construction would not begin until WKU received the funds from the state, Bryan Russell, Chief of Facilities said.

“We already have engaged Gensler architects. out of Chicago to start the design,” Russell said.

Content Editor Debra Murray can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @debramurrayy