Kansas University's chancellor is cautiously optimistic that a state budget that includes 3.5 percent raises for faculty and staff will remain intact.
All Kansas University employees will earn at least a 3.5 percent raise in July if the Legislature doesn't change course at the end of the 1999 session.
Lawmakers sent an $8.9 billion state budget to Gov. Bill Graves on Saturday but reserve the right to tweak the spending blueprint when considering the Omnibus Appropriations Act during its wrap-up session, which begins April 28.
KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said Monday that he was pleased with the salary plan adopted by the House and Senate for the state's 2000 fiscal year. It contains not only 3.5 percent wage increases for classified and unclassified KU employees, but an extra $3.4 million in special raises for university faculty.
"That means that we would be close to 5 percent for faculty salaries," he said. "What we have to watch is to make sure that in the wrap-up session there are not such commitments made that the state doesn't have sufficient funds to balance the budget, which might cause them to go back and trim. There is absolutely nothing secure yet."
Legislators endorsed the 3.5 percent raises for state employees recommended by Graves in January. The Senate convinced the House to boost the special faculty salary pool $900,000 beyond the governor's request.
That salary money will be vulnerable if the budget is squeezed hard by other priorities, Hemenway said.
"Faculty should watch closely and talk with legislative representatives about how important that salary enhancement is," he said.
Marvin Burris, director of planning, budget and governmental relations for the Kansas Board of Regents, said legislators also agreed to increase the operating budget for state universities by 2.5 percent, with .5 percent going to libraries.
He said the higher education reform legislation will be handled in the wrap-up session. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would allocate $80 million to community colleges, regents universities and Washburn University as part of the transformation.
A reconstituted Board of Regents would keep governance jurisdiction over the state's six universities, including KU, and assume coordination jurisdiction over the 19 community colleges, Washburn and 11 vocational-technical schools.
State aid to community colleges and Washburn would be converted from the present credit-hour aid system to an operating grant system. In the first year, they would receive 50 percent of the average cost of educating underclassmen at the three regional universities, or about $1,990 a student, plus money to phase out out-district tuition.
Community colleges would be required to use 80 percent of increased state funding to lower local property taxes. There also is a component for rewarding schools with bonuses if they met performance goals.
The universities would get the same amount of money as the community colleges and could use it all on faculty salary enhancement, Burris said.
Hemenway said the conference committee's challenge would be to deal with budget implications of reform. Without additional resources -- regents universities would divide $26 million under the current proposal -- it might not be in the best interests of the schools to support reforms, he said.
"If the position is that the Board of Regents should be abolished, but that there is no funding for the regents' institutions in the bill, then you have to assess whether or not this would be a good bill for regents' institutions."
The higher education restructuring conference committee next meets April 27, the day before the Legislature returns for its wrap-up session.
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