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Archive for Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Plan includes higher ed increase

But administration would see cuts to fund salary increase for faculty

January 13, 2004

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Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' budget proposal includes $15.9 million in new money for the state's higher education system, and a 3 percent salary increase for those who work for colleges and universities.

But it also includes more than $12 million in administrative cuts, mostly from purchasing and information technology budgets.

That combination clouded the budget picture for university leaders trying to make sense of the budget proposal Monday night.

"We're probably going to have to work longer hours because our computer issues aren't going to be addressed as quickly, and we won't have the supplies we need," said Pam Houston, president of Kansas University's Unclassified and Professional Staff Assn. "We'll get a small percentage increase on low wages, and we'll be asked to do more with less."

Sebelius' proposal included:

  • $8.9 million in funding promised by the Legislature in 1999, when the state's higher education system was reorganized. Most of the money would go to faculty salary increases.
  • A $5 million -- or about 1 percent -- increase to block-grant funding for state universities.
  • A $1 million increase to the state's comprehensive loan program, which provides tuition assistance for needy students.
  • A $1 million increase for vocational/technical schools and colleges.

Sebelius also said she supported a measure that would create a Bioscience Authority that would, among other things, support life sciences research at KU and Kansas State University. The measure also would provide tax incentives to spur the state's biotechnology industry.

David Shulenburger, provost and executive vice chancellor at KU, said he generally was pleased with what he heard Monday night.

He said he hadn't yet analyzed the budget but said he was concerned the administrative cuts would lead to another year of reductions. During the 2002-2003 year, KU lost $18.8 million -- or about 8 percent -- through budget reductions and unfunded costs. Unfunded employer costs, including health insurance, led to another $3.7 million cut from its base budget this fiscal year.

Next year, health insurance costs at the Lawrence and medical center campuses will increase another $5.7 million, he said. Base funding increases proposed by Sebelius wouldn't cover that amount.

"It helps but doesn't cover it," Shulenburger said. "Until we get all the figures, I can't balance out all the pluses and minuses."

He was pleased both Sebelius and the Republican legislative leadership were backing an initiative to boost life science research at KU and K-State.

"That can hold huge dividends for the people of the state," he said. "The state's economy clearly needs some additional support, and both sides seem to be supporting that."

Reggie Robinson, president and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents, said his staff would be working to understand how the administrative cuts would be put in place. Officials from the state budget office are expected to brief regents on their budget proposal today.

Robinson said that while the faculty salary money and block grant increases weren't as much as the regents had requested, he said the overall budget was a success for higher education.

"There's a net plus for universities -- that's positive," he said. "Last year the budget was more to stop the bleeding. This year, we're beginning to move back to where we want to be, or back to where we were, in terms of funding."

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