Regents to vote on budget, major projects Friday

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Students walk toward Cherry Hall on the first day of classes at WKU on Aug. 25 in Bowling Green. Mike Clark/HERALD

Makaio Smith, Staff Writer

The WKU Board of Regents will vote on a $383.4 million budget for the coming fiscal year at the special budget meeting on Friday, up 2.1% from the current year. 

WKU’s budget for 2022-23 includes a 1.19% increase in tuition, setting the rate for in-state tuition at $5,556 per semester. This will help fund fixed cost and inflationary increases, Timothy Caboni, WKU president, said in a memorandum to the Board of Regents. 

Tuition and fees are the largest source of revenue, representing 46% of all revenue in the budget, followed by state appropriations, which represents 22% of all revenue.

While tuition and fees will generate more than $176.5 million during the year, that amount will be down from $180.4 million in tuition WKU collected during 2021-22. The budget indicates tuition revenue is declining because of a 12% drop in full-time equivalency students since 2015, and a sharp drop – 88% – in international students, who pay far higher tuition, during that time. 

State funding for WKU in 2022-23 – $85.7 million – includes the first substantial investment by the state in postsecondary education in more than a decade, according to budget documents provided to regents. WKU’s state funding includes: 

  • A base state appropriation of more than $67.6 million
  • Performance funding of nearly $7.8 million.
  • Funding for Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science, at nearly $5 million.
  • Nearly $3.6 million in subsidy to cover funding shortfalls in the Kentucky Employee Retirement System (KERS). 
  • $1.75 million to fund the Kentucky Mesonet, the statewide weather data network based at WKU. 

Other revenues in the budget the regents will consider Friday include:

  • Restricted funds, which can be used only for specific purposes, of $59.1 million.
  • Sales, services and auxiliary revenues of $32.3 million.
  • Other revenue – including money from WKU’s foundations, from the sale of parking permits, from summer camps and a variety of other sources – totalling $29.8 million.

On the expense side of WKU’s budget for 2022-23:

  • Salaries, wages and fringe benefits for employees total more than $182.7 million, or 48% of all expenses, up 4% from 2021-22. The budget includes a 2% salary increase pool, effective in January.
  • Student financial aid total nearly $107.8 million, or 28% of the budget, up $157,397 from 2021-22.
  • General operating expenses – which includes supplies, maintenance, travel and similar expenses – are more than $65.2 million, or 17% of the overall budget. The amount is down 9% from 2021-22.
  • Debt service is nearly $18.4 million, or 5% of the budget, up from $17.3 million in 2021-22.
  • Utility costs are flat at under $9.4 million, or 2% of the budget.

Regents also will consider WKU’s capital budget, which includes $74.4 million approved by the Kentucky General Assembly for 2023-24 for the construction of the new building for the Gordon Ford College of Business. Regents will be asked to approve moving forward with design and construction of the new building, set to occupy the site where Tate Page Hall once stood adjacent to South Lawn. 

Also at the meeting, regents will consider:

  • Authorizing a project to preserve, renovate or renew Cherry Hall for up to $30 million.
  • Authorizing up to $52 million in “general receipts obligations” to refinance remaining debt on the Diddle Arena renovation, to renovate the press box at the football stadium and to build Hilltopper Fieldhouse for athletics. Backup material indicates the refinancing will save about $400,000 in interest and that the new projects  “Can be achieved with no increase in the current student fee and no significant increase to annual debt service requirements…”
  • Accepting a resolution for “general receipts refunding obligations” of up to $20.5 million to refinance bonds for the renovation of Downing Student Union. Documents provided to the board indicate the refinancing will cut interest costs by over $1 million on the remaining debt.
  • Approving of a variety of projects to preserve, renovate or replace campus infrastructure after the General Assembly allocated more than $34 million in each of the next two years to asset preservation at WKU. WKU must provide a 15% match to the state funding. 

“Overall this budget increases funding that supports our institutional mission – propelling our work to recruit high-caliber students, grow retention rates and expand the number of students completing degrees for WKU,” Caboni said in a memorandum to the regents.

 

Makaio Smith can be reached at [email protected]