Kansas University leaders told an audience of more than 75 people Wednesday that the ongoing state budget crisis has changed how KU operates.
“Up to this point, we’ve really managed to do very well, but $32 million causes a lot of changes,” said Interim Chancellor Barbara Atkinson.
KU had been adjusting for a 10 percent — or nearly $32 million drop-off in state funding. Another recent 2 percent cut took that figure above $36 million.
Tuition and federal stimulus dollars have provided some relief, officials said, but still, the impact has been felt across the campus.
Among the budget measures outlined at the forum so far:
• The Lawrence campus is operating with 121 fewer positions, including 55 faculty positions. In the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, there will be about 75 fewer class offerings and 25 fewer graduate teaching assistants.
• At the KU Medical Center, 79 positions have been eliminated, including 46 layoffs, said Atkinson, who also oversees the Medical Center campus. Another 363 positions have been shifted to outside sources of funding — including clinical revenue and grants. However, those funding sources may dry up in the years ahead, she said.
• For the third time since 1972, KU employees will not have regular merit salary increases.
• KU has been able to save about $9 million so far in various efficiency measures, including reducing museum hours and moving the faculty newsletter to online-only.
One faculty member in the audience suggested that the freezing of open faculty positions in Lawrence may run deeper than the 55 announced.
Atkinson said she agreed that the number was probably understated, saying the number was difficult to quantify exactly, depending on the methods used to count openings.
Other questions — some via e-mail — asked about furloughs and the potential for eliminating programs. Danny Anderson, interim provost, said the elimination of entire programs may not save as much as some think, once factors like loss of students and harm to recruitment efforts are factored in.
Annual salary notification letters going out to faculty members this week will include a mention of furloughs possibly being needed this fiscal year, Atkinson said.
Anderson said that KU had cut more on the administrative side of its operation than the academic side, which would mean things like more potholes on streets and perhaps a longer wait to get paperwork processed, as fewer office workers would be employed.
Atkinson said that KU did not anticipate needing to use furloughs to cover the existing budget cuts, but Anderson said KU had been planning for such a necessity.
The university has made plans that would involve a tiered system, in which lower-paid employees have to take less unpaid time, Anderson said, but if the occasion came where they would be necessary, further discussion and planning would be needed.