Western Proposes Budget Cuts

May 9, 2013

Keeping his word to avoid across-the-board cuts to meet a projected $2,139,000 revenue shortfall, Western Kentucky University President Gary Ransdell on Wednesday announced a three-pronged strategy developed by the WKU Administrative Cabinet to a balanced budget.  No job cuts are mentioned, but financial help on employees’ cellphone expenses was chopped as the cabinet reached into pockets and pocketbooks.  The biggest slice is a 5 percent cut of university financial subsidy for the WKU Athletic Department over the next five years.

The current-year WKU budget is $388.6 million. University officials said this morning that the balanced budget number to take effect July 1, if approved by the WKU Board of Regents, has not been finalized.

A surgeon’s approach to budget-cutting that spreads over several university departments or processes was used in an effort Ransdell described as neither “easy” nor “ideal.” The Administrative Cabinet comprises the university’s vice presidents and WKU Provost Gordon Emslie. The university only plans to shut down one of its outreach locations, a site for classes in Radcliff where WKU rents a building.

“While I am pleased that we were able to manage this process without reductions in anyone’s base salary and without layoffs, none of these were easy decisions, nor are they ideal. Most campus departments will not be affected, and we have avoided across-the-board cuts, which are tough on morale,” Ransdell said in a release to faculty and staff.

A phone message placed for Ransdell today was not immediately returned. Bob Skipper, university spokesman, said Ransdell was out of town this morning.

One key line in the email refers to unfilled positions at WKU, noting that “we will eliminate vacant positions that have remained unfilled for the last five years.” Ransdell, at a budget session earlier this year, had expressed a reluctance to touch the vacant positions when the subject of possible job cuts was broached.

The balanced budget will be presented to the WKU Board of Regents on June 21. The cuts are in reaction to a denial by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education of WKU’s requested 5 percent tuition and fees increase – the CPE granted a 3 percent increase for the budget year that begins July 1. The reductions also begin on July 1. Excerpts of Ransdell’s email circulated Wednesday follow:

“Beginning July 1, we will eliminate the budgets for the FACET program and the Center of Excellence in the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences. We will also eliminate recurring funding for the Provost’s Initiative for Excellence (PIE grants) and create efficiencies by merging the budgets of the Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility and the ALIVE Center. The WKU switchboard operation will be combined with the WKU Welcome Center, and both will move to the Augenstein Alumni Center where all campus tours now begin. These actions will save $645,000.”

The FACET program helps graduate students, new faculty and existing faculty with teaching strategies, according to the WKU website.

Skipper said this morning that the switchboard operation on the first floor of the Wetherby Administration Building is the one that will be moved to the new Augenstein Alumni Center. There already were plans to move the Welcome Center from the Kentucky Building to the new alumni center, giving prospective students a tour that begins at the alumni center. That building has a special presentation room expected to be used to tell the university’s story – through multimedia – to those students.

“Recurring budget support for Research and Creative Activity Program grants (RCAP) and the Quality Enhancement Program (QEP) will be reduced,” Ransdell’s email continued. “We will also reduce funding for the Talisman (WKU’s yearbook) and achieve additional efficiencies in Student Publications; curtail food expenditures for Parents and Family Weekend events; eliminate duplicative budgeting of stipends for the Ed.D program; and reduce the recurring budget for computer replacements. These program reductions will save $308,000.”

“Cellphone allowances paid to employees will be reduced by $10 per month beginning with the July pay period,” the email noted.

“In addition, we will apply savings from energy efficiencies to reduce the utilities budget, and we will eliminate vacant positions that have remained unfilled for the last five years. We will reduce the budget for institutional memberships and eliminate the Higher Education Price Index (HEPI) increases to Athletics, Student Technology, Student Government Association and Health Services. Additional reductions will be made in the divisions of Campus Services, Finance and Administration, Information Technology, and Student Affairs, and we will redirect tuition for selected DELO (distance education) programs to the central budget.”

The email noted there will be a building closure, an old grocery store in Radcliff, that has been rented and used to host classes, Skipper said.

“We will close the Radcliff Center in Hardin County and operate existing programs in either Fort Knox or Elizabethtown. And over the next five years, we will reduce the university subsidy to athletics by 5 percent. An additional $203,000 in efficiencies will be identified and implemented in the months ahead. These combined actions will save $1,186,000.”

The WKU athletic department received $9,888,027 in direct institutional support in the year ending June 30, according to the NCAA Compliance Report. Indirect facilities and administrative support totalled $1,386,514 for the same time period, while $1,090,702 was received in NCAA/conference distributions – including all tournament revenues. No broadcast, television, radio or Internet rights were received. The athletic department also received $2,049,358 in contributions.