Dennis Constance, a Kansas University employee and member of the Classified Support Staff Council, said that if universities must cut personnel budgets this year, the council would prefer the schools implement employee furloughs instead of layoffs.
“Right now, wages and job security have muscled their way to the forefront,” he said.
Constance, who was speaking last week on behalf of the council to the Kansas Board of Regents, also said the council would oppose any move to change Kansas Public Employees Retirement System benefits for existing employees.
“I hope this is an idea that will not gain traction,” Constance said.
Recently, Gov. Mark Parkinson rang alarm bells among state employees when he said all options need to be considered to resolve long-term funding problems within KPERS.
“The underfunding is so significant, in my view, everything has to be looked at,” Parkinson said. Parkinson’s office later said he didn’t want to touch benefits of current retirees, but he was not more specific.
Constance works in the housekeeping department at KU. He is president of university support staff, which has about 1,400 employees.
The regents are walking a tightrope as they approach Parkinson and the Legislature with the higher education budget request.
After seeing budgets cut by $100 million this year, the regents are seeking a $117 million increase over the next three years, with $17 million for the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2010, and $50 million for each of the two years after that.
The $17 million increase has been described by regents and school officials as sort of a current services-level budget, which takes into account higher costs associated with utilities, enrollment and an increase in health insurance. The $100 million in the next two fiscal years has been described as needed to help the schools improve their academic rankings, a challenge presented last month by Parkinson during the regents’ retreat.
Meanwhile, student leaders have told the regents that they will soon amass information on the harmful effects the recent budget cuts and the sour economy have had on students’ ability to go to school.