KU cuts KPR, Audio-Reader budget by $400,000 in two-year span; staff reductions on horizon

Dan Skinner, director of Kansas Public Radio, center, is flanked by volunteer Tana Ahlen, Eudora, left, and KPR music director Michael Keelan, as the three ask listeners for contributions during the station's Campaign for Excellence on Friday, March 31, 2017 at the KANU studio.

The public radio station based at the University of Kansas is staring down the largest budget cut in its history and expects staff reductions as a result.

KU is permanently reducing its financial support for the station as a way of dealing with the multimillion-dollar cuts the university has received from the state, said Dan Skinner, director of Kansas Public Radio and its sister organization, the Kansas Audio-Reader Network.

On top of $100,000 budget reductions to both KPR and Audio-Reader for fiscal year 2017, which the Journal-World reported in October, each entity will be cut an additional $100,000 for fiscal year 2018, Skinner said. In total, that creates a $400,000 permanent budget reduction in a two-year span.

The amount is “a lot to absorb that quickly,” Skinner said. “The reduction in funding from the university will have a significant impact on both KPR and the Audio-Reader Network.”

The second wave of cuts was confirmed in recent months, Skinner said.

KPR publicized the reduction this week at the kickoff of the station’s on-air spring fundraising drive, which runs through April 7.

Pledge support to Kansas Public Radio

KPR’s spring fundraising drive runs through April 7. To pledge support, call 1-888-577-5268 or make a contribution online at kansaspublicradio.org

KPR’s total cash operating budget for the current year is about $2.2 million, and Audio-Reader’s is $720,000, according to Nicole Banman, business manager for the organizations. Of the totals, KU contributes about $385,500 for KPR and $342,800 for Audio-Reader, plus in-kind support such as IT support, electricity and use of the building at 1120 W. 11th St.

The university’s fiscal year begins July 1.

KPR left three and a half positions unfilled to get through this year, Skinner said. KPR has a total of 21 full- and part-time employees remaining.

More staff reductions will be needed as a result of the newly announced cuts, Skinner said, though he said he could not share specifics about affected positions because it’s a personnel matter. He said cuts also would limit the station’s ability to purchase programming.

Going forward, Skinner said, KPR must lean even more heavily on donations.

“KPR will have to become leaner, at least temporarily, to deal with the budget reductions,” he said. “By necessity, the percentage of funding coming from listeners will need to increase in the future.”

As for Audio-Reader, where KU support makes up a larger percentage of the total budget, the impact of the university’s budget cuts will be even stronger, Skinner said.

Audio-Reader depends on individual donations, foundation grants and income from fundraising events, Skinner said. In addition to the organization’s small staff, more than 450 volunteers enable Audio-Reader to provide free news and other broadcasts for blind, visually impaired and print-disabled people in Kansas and western Missouri.

In Lawrence, KPR is on air at FM 91.5. The station also broadcasts live online at kansaspublicradio.org.

KU funding for KPR

Total university support per fiscal year and percentage of operating budget it represents. Numbers represent cash and do not include in-kind support, and 2017 and 2018 figures are estimates.


2016 — $490,505 (24 percent)

2017 — $385,513 (18 percent)

2018 — $285,531 (14 percent)


2016 — $499,445 (67 percent)

2017 — $342,813 (54 percent)

2018 — $242,813 (39 percent)

Source: KPR

Audio-Reader benefit concert

“A Tribute to the Beatles!” is planned for April 14 at Liberty Hall. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., and the show starts at 8 p.m. A number of area musicians will perform. Tickets, available at Liberty Hall, are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. All proceeds benefit the Kansas Audio-Reader Network.