Archive for Monday, January 6, 1992


January 6, 1992


William Crowe, Kansas University's dean of libraries, doesn't like what he sees when reading between the lines of KU's budget documents.

"The university has tried for decades to protect the library's quality," he said. "That is hard at times. This is one of those times."

The library's annual purchases of books dropped 25 percent, and journal subscriptions fell 9 percent during a five-year period ending in 1990. Inflation and a weakening dollar will force KU to buy 3,000 fewer books and cancel 800 subscriptions this year.

To stabilize the library's purchasing power, Crowe said, KU will ask the 1992 Legislature and Gov. Joan Finney for a special allocation of $612,000.

It's just one of hundreds of items in KU's proposed budget for fiscal 1993 that could be threatened by state budget problems.

Stanley Koplik, executive director of the Kansas Board of Regents, said it will be difficult for KU to obtain significant new funding for libraries or any other programs.

"You don't need to take Arithmetic 101 to know there will be no substantial increases for anyone absent a tax increase," he said.

And a tax increase is doubtful.

Rep. John Solbach, D-Lawrence, said a tax increase to help higher education is unlikely in 1992 a year in which the entire Legislature is up for re-election.

Rep. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence, agreed.

"THERE WON'T be dramatic increases, and I don't think anybody is expecting any," she said.

Sen. Wint Winter Jr., R-Lawrence, said the regents' budget will be linked to other issues, primarily decisions regarding state support of public schools.

"We should be able to avoid layoffs that have plagued other states," he said. "I'm optimistic we will be able to make gains in financing higher education."

KU Chancellor Gene Budig wants to increase total spending for KU's Lawrence campus by $16 million to $262 million. At the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., Budig seeks to raise the budget by $13 million to $258 million.

Finney will present her budget plan to the Legislature on Jan. 14.

Budig said KU drafted its budget with the knowledge that the state faces money problems. But he said the request is modest compared with previous years.

"IT'S CERTAINLY modest in comparison to the university's legitimate needs," Budig said.

KU's proposal includes a 5 percent raise in faculty and student wages, a 5 percent increase for other operating expenditures (OOE) and $1 million to plan the $17 million rebuilding of Hoch Auditorium.

Budig's top priority, as it was last year, is salaries of unclassified faculty and staff. KU will request $4.7 million to raise unclassified salaries and propose a 1 percent raise in the state's contribution to the employee retirement program.

Solbach said the state budget division, which makes budget recommendations to the governor, was wrong not to endorse a raise for unclassified employees.

"People are what makes universities. You could remove the buildings and still have a university," he said.

Budig said KU needs more money for salaries to improve faculty retention and recruitment.

"Our faculty are doing 118 percent of the work at 88 percent of the average salary at comparable institutions of higher learning," he said.

Meanwhile, the state budget division recommended that KU's classified (civil service) employees receive a 2.5 percent "step" increase and longevity pay for those who qualify.

BUDIG ALSO wants a 5 percent increase for student wages. The budget division opposes this $87,000 request.

Another plank of KU's budget is a proposal to rebuild Hoch Auditorium, which also wasn't endorsed by the state budget division. A fire gutted the building in June after it was hit by lightning.

Budig wants the Legislature to appropriate $1 million this year to plan the project. Under KU's plan, the state would provide $8 million next year and $9 million the following year for construction.

"This university cannot do a first-class instructional job without its replacement," Budig said.

Praeger said the Legislature has an obligation to rebuild Hoch to maintain the integrity of the state's "self-insurance" policy, essentially an unwritten pledge to repair damaged buildings.

"The state has to pick up the cost of Hoch," Solbach said. "Not that it has to be done this year."

KU also requested an increase of $880,000, or 5 percent, for other operating expenses. Budig said KU is funded at 64 percent of its peers in the area of OOE.

OTHER REQUESTS in KU's fiscal 1993 budget are:

$2.2 million to accommodate enrollment growth.

$1.5 million for library, instruction and computing equipment.

$1 million to make up for a budget cut imposed in August.

$750,000 to decommission a nuclear reactor in Burt Hall.

Although higher education has strong support throughout the state, Solbach said, it isn't a pressing issue for many legislators.

"What I certainly worry about is not a question of being ignored, but in a sense being . . . vulnerable to budget reductions as other issues command more attention," Koplik said.

Universities can help themselves by being more efficient, Praeger said.

"Sometimes tough fiscal times bring about changes that don't cost money, but just provide for more efficiencies," she said.

Koplik said it's "very difficult to starve an institution into excellence."

Winter said the state's budget problems might help persuade the Legislature to approve qualified admissions for state universities.

Coming Tuesday: Focus on Lawrence public schools.

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