Archive for Sunday, February 22, 2004

State’s plans for student fees panned

February 22, 2004

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Andy Knopp figures Kansas University students knew what they were doing when they approved a $62-per-semester fee to build and operate a new Student Recreation Fitness Center.

So when Gov. Kathleen Sebelius ordered an across-the-board 10 percent reduction in purchasing and technology expenditures at state universities, including independently funded student programs such as the recreation center, the KU student body president became concerned.

"To the students who voted for it, it's a slap in the face," Knopp said. "They (state officials) don't respect student fees."

Now, KU Student Senate leaders have banded with student leaders from the other five state universities in approving a resolution that calls the budgetary practice a "dangerous precedent." Between 60 and 70 students are expected Monday at the Capitol to protest the proposal and to support other higher education funding increases.

The reduction in funds is directly tied to Sebelius' proposal for a 3 percent salary increase for state employees during the fiscal year beginning July 1. That would require about $27 million statewide.

Sebelius proposed reducing purchasing and information technology costs in all state agencies by about 10 percent to cover the costs.

The savings, which will be transferred to the state general fund, are expected to cover the cost of employee raises.

"The budget is still so tight it's not possible to do a salary plan of 3 percent without somehow finding that money in already-existing budgets," said Duane Goossen, Sebelius' budget director. "It doesn't absolutely have to come out of the information technology and purchasing areas, but we think they can find the savings in those areas."

At KU, the governor's budget proposal requires $3.375 million in cuts, said Lindy Eakin, vice provost for administration and finance. It is split almost evenly between tuition and other fees borne by students, such as housing costs.

"We have a philosophical question," Eakin said. "Some of this money is Student Senate money. They're charging a fee, and you may have to give up money to the state."

Eakin said he also was concerned about how the cuts would affect the housing department at KU, which is funded by housing fees.

Knopp said student senators supported raises for employees, just not the method Sebelius was proposing. Knopp said he wasn't convinced KU could come up with the cuts necessary out of the areas identified by Sebelius.

Knopp noted that the recreation center would lose about $10,000 of its budget.

"The money should go back to the rec center or the students directly," Knopp said.

Goossen said he was confident the cutbacks wouldn't be felt by students. He also noted that the funding restrictions were a one-year plan.

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