Topeka Several members of the Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday said they want to reduce a proposed funding increase request for higher education before it gets to Gov. Sam Brownback's desk.
And that could affect two major initiatives sought by Kansas University.
"The Legislature and executive branch are looking to us to make a realistic request," said Regent Kenny Wilk of Lansing. "I want to make sure that what we request, we get," Wilk said.
The board had a wide-ranging discussion on finance issues Wednesday in preparation for a vote Thursday on a funding recommendation, which will then be forwarded to Brownback's budget office.
KU is seeking a new appropriation of $5 million per year from the state to help build a $78 million medical education building at the KU School of Medicine.
The current building is obsolete, decrepit and too small, officials said. This year, KU turned away 100 qualified Kansas applicants because it did not have enough space, officials said.
The proposed building "is absolutely essential to us," said Barbara Atkinson, the executive vice chancellor of the KU Medical Center.
In addition to the proposed state appropriation, KU intends to pay for the building with private funds, tuition and other resources.
But Regents Chairman Ed McKechnie of Arcadia, who visited with Brownback's chief of staff David Kensinger earlier in the day, said, "I'm not sure if we rolled this out the right way. I'm not sure yet if I want to send it up and have it shot at."
Vice Chairman Tim Emert of Independence said the governor's office was interested in the project but wanted to explore a different financing proposal. He said that perhaps the project could be submitted to the budget office later in the year.
KU also is seeking a new appropriation of $3 million per year to hire "foundation professors."
KU Provost Jeff Vitter said hiring the prestigious professors will help the university maintain its membership in the Association of American Universities. "We are competing with another 60 universities that want to join," he said.
On other funding fronts, regent Fred Logan Jr. of Leawood said the board needed to scale back.
Logan said the proposed inflationary increase request of 2.6 percent should be ratcheted down to 1.8 percent, and a $20 million increase for technical schools down to $8 million.
If the regents ask for the higher amounts, they will be rejected, he said. "I'm the hard-headed realist type," Logan said. Board members also questioned a request from Kansas State University to expand the College of Veterinary Medicine.
But Regent Dan Lykins of Topeka said the 2.6 percent increase for inflation was reasonable given the fact that higher education was cut $100 million two years ago during the recession.