Fall River — Higher education officials on Thursday whittled down their budget recommendations, citing the current economic and political climate.
"The fewer asks we have, the better off we are," said Regent Fred Logan of Leawood.
Regent Kenny Wilk of Lansing, said, "Holding the line and protecting the base operating grant is really, really important."
The board took a $194 million list of budget requests and cut it to $78 million. The board will finalize its request next month and then forward those to Gov. Sam Brownback's budget office. Brownback will then submit a spending plan to the Legislature when the 2013 session starts in January.
The regents recommended two major funding initiatives for Kansas University related to health care. The board recommended $2.8 million per year for funding of the KU medical school campus in Wichita.
In previous discussions, KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little had held off asking for additional funds for the Wichita campus until a study on the issue had been completed. Gray-Little said preliminary results from the study have since been finished and she noted that Brownback has said KU needs to enhance the status of the medical school.
The other KU request recommended by the regents would go toward construction of a new $75 million medical education building at the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.
KU is seeking $30 million in state funding for the building, which officials say is outdated. The regents will ask Brownback and the Legislature to give KU authority to issue bonds, which would require about $3.7 million in state funds annually to pay off the bonds. But the regents marked only $1 million in debt service for the next fiscal year, saying that would probably suffice in the first year of the project.
The regents declined to ask for a $2.5 million annual appropriation to start at KU the Kansas Institute for Translational Chemical Biology, which was proposed for the development of drug discoveries. Gray-Little said the institute is needed but she said the medical education building and Wichita campus funding were higher priorities at this point.
On Wednesday, board members said the political reality of the Statehouse dictated that they cut down budget requests.
Brownback has signed into law massive tax cuts and a more conservative Legislature has been elected with help from the governor.
Other big ticket items recommended by the board during its retreat included:
— $20 million in additional funding for deferred maintenance.
— An inflation increase of 1.7 percent or $12.35 million in the higher education block grant.
— A 1 percent salary increase, with $18 million.
— $8 million in additional funding for two year colleges.