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Board of Regents discuss budget overspending, approve over $33,000 raise for general counsel at quarterly meeting

Cameron Shaw
The Board of Regents met for their quarterly meeting on Thursday, May 2 2024, where they discussed budget overspending and approved raises, faculty promotions and new academic programs.

WKU is looking into its contract with Sodexo Management Services after maintenance expenditures consistently break budget, and may consider “insourcing” maintenance, bringing it back into the university, President Timothy Caboni told the Board of Regents on Thursday.

WKU’s maintenance positions are primarily contracted through Sodexo, a facilities maintenance company. WKU’s contract with Sodexo was intended to take employees out of the university’s system and into a third-party vendor, freeing the university from having to participate in the state’s Kentucky Employee Retirement System, Caboni said.

“When this decision was made, the contribution per employee to retirement was 50% of salary,” Caboni said. “Conversations several years ago were that that would go to 70% of salary, which was not sustainable for us as an institution. We made that decision as a cost-saving measure to outsource.”

Now, changes in the state retirement system have lowered the obligation the university would face, Caboni said. Regent David Brinkley said spending to cover the Sodexo contract has consistently overrun the budget.

In the 2024 fiscal year, WKU’s total budget was $389.9 million. Maintenance was allotted a budget of $17.1 million through the first three quarters of the fiscal year but spent about $18.6 million, or 108% of its budget. In 2023, maintenance spent 109% of its budget, or about $18.5 million during the same time period.

Susan Howarth, executive vice president for strategy, operations and finance, cited the continual overspending to rising inflation. “With the inflationary cost, we’ve been able to get that down as well, from 109 to 108 percent, Howarth said.

“When we talk about the good performers and the bad performers, there is a category that has shown up at over 100% multiple years in a row,” Brinkley said. “I don’t think it’s fair, personally, to single out inflation as an excuse. 

“Everybody on this campus – deans, every area – is dealing with [the] same inflationary pressures. Will everyone on this campus in the coming fiscal year have to pay for the bad acts of a division that has continued to overspend beyond their capacity?”

Caboni said the overspending was a factor in WKU appointing a committee to consider how to move forward on the contract.

“We have a committee that’s working on this,” Caboni said. “It’s taking a very close look at that Sodexo contract.”

WKU announced in 2016 that it would begin outsourcing its maintenance services to Sodexo.

“What was a cost-saving activity (outsourcing to Sodexo), now may not be,” Caboni said. “Does this still make good sense to us, or could you do the same by insourcing, essentially? We’re going to have that conversation during the next months and next year.”

The Board of Regents also approved a $33,688 raise for Andrea Anderson, the university’s general counsel during the meeting.

A new employment agreement between WKU and Anderson will increase Anderson’s annual base salary from $186,312 to $220,000 for her next term in her position, with the new contract expiring on June 30, 2028. The agreement also includes the chance for a raise “at the sole discretion of the University’s President.”

Also on Thursday at its quarterly meeting, the regents:

  • Learned that the Budget Executive Committee’s recommendation to provide a 2% faculty and staff budgeted salary pool has been accepted and will be included in the upcoming budget.
  • Were told that final budget revenue projections for the 2025 fiscal year, which starts July 1, have been delayed. Haworth said the delay was because of problems with new federal forms for student financial aid, which required WKU to extend its scholarship acceptance deadline until May 15.
  • Awarded the designation of dean emeritus to Jeffrey Katz, former dean of the Gordon Ford College of Business. The title of emeritus is given as an honor for retired faculty who have served the university for at least 10 years and have demonstrated a distinguished record of achievement.
  • Approved tenure and promotions for over 20 faculty and staff.
  • Approved five new academic programs including: undergraduate certificates in personal branding, sport media and communication, and artificial intelligence and analytics; a graduate certificate in School of Social Work; minors in piano pedagogy and commercial music.

A detailed budget presentation will be shared at the Board’s special meeting on June 7.

News Reporter Cameron Shaw can be reached at [email protected].

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