Archive for Thursday, June 27, 2002

Board recommends 14 percent financial increase

June 27, 2002


— The Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday recommended a 14 percent increase in higher education funding to make up for the current budget freeze, inflation and promises by the Legislature to increase faculty salaries.

But because of the state's slumping revenue performance, the chances of receiving such an increase, or any increase, was slim to none, according to several regents.

Still, some regents expressed hope.

"We believe higher education is a high priority in any state's economy," Regent Janice DeBauge said. "Cutting it will hurt the economy. We're hopeful Kansans will demand that higher education be funded."

The 14 percent increase would raise state spending on higher education by $104.8 million, from $712.5 million to $817.3 million, for the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2003. Lawmakers will work on that fiscal year budget when they return for the legislative session that starts in January.

Regents members were quick to point out that $61 million of the proposed $104.8 million increase was the result of funding increases promised by the Legislature when it adopted higher education reforms in 1999.

As a part of those reforms, the Legislature promised three consecutive years of faculty salary increases, funds for property-tax relief for community colleges and funds for performance grants, all of which were withheld for the fiscal year that starts Monday by the recent Legislature because of the state's budget problems.

Take away that $61 million in promised funding, and the regents were seeking a 6 percent increase to cover inflation for two years.

"Most of (the increase) is being driven by statute," Regent Jack Wempe said.

Regents Chairman Clay Blair said any increase for public schools and higher education would require a tax increase because of the state's lagging revenue picture.

Blair, whose term on the regents expires this month, said higher education officials probably would make increases in their base budgets their No. 1 priority.

Increased funding under the higher education reforms of 1999 is "an important goal," but realistically the funding request will be one of many funding requests for state services, he said. "The reality is it's one part of a parcel of needs," he said.

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