Topeka Kansas’ budget director on Wednesday stood before members of the Kansas Board of Regents and asked for their thoughts on what he called a very tough budget situation.
Regents obliged. And they’ll continue discussions today on how budget cuts could affect higher education.
“Right now, today, we’re spending more than we take in,” Duane Goossen told the regents, noting that could continue because of reserves the state has built up in previous years. But if that does continue, Goossen said, “By the end of this fiscal year our balances will be gone.”
The state still must factor gaming revenue into its calculations. But gaming certainly cannot make up the state’s shortfall.
“It’s not a great picture at all,” he said. “There are only hard decisions.”
Kansas University Chancellor Robert Hemenway said KU would respond to the anticipated budget cuts by looking for efficiencies, including in personnel.
“Every opening you have in the university, you have to assess: ‘Is this a position you need to fill,’” while ensuring that the quality of education does not suffer, Hemenway said.
The state’s proposed cuts are centered in three areas. First, the state is seeking a 3 percent cut this fiscal year. After that, the state will ask for an additional 4 percent cut next fiscal year.
Specific programs also are being targeted in an effort to make up the total budget deficit: $15 million from deferred maintenance, $15 million from the KU pharmacy expansion in Lawrence and Wichita, and $2.5 million from the KU graduate medical education program in Wichita.
Regent Dan Lykins noted that more than two-thirds of the state’s budget is spent on K-12 education and social services — areas that officials have said are protected from cuts.
“We’re willing to take a bite and take a hit,” Lykins said. “But doesn’t everybody have to suffer a little bit?”
And Regent Christine Downey-Schmidt said the board should make it clear to the Legislature that money that already had been allocated to higher education was important and that universities could not use tuition as a “back door” out of the situation.
The last time the state needed such drastic cuts nearly coincides with the beginning of KU’s “tuition enhancement program,” which saw the price of attending KU nearly double over five years.