KU offering voluntary buyout package to certain faculty members to manage COVID-19 losses
photo by: Associated Press
The University of Kansas will begin offering voluntary buyout packages to certain faculty members to reduce the university’s losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, KU announced Monday.
The measure is the university’s first concrete move to address a daunting financial situation. KU Chancellor Douglas Girod has said the university faces a budget shortfall of at least $120 million in the next fiscal year — which begins July 1 — as a direct result of shutdowns associated with the virus.
Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer said in a Monday message to faculty and staff members that those eligible to take a buyout must be age 62 or older at the time the retirement takes effect, have completed at least 10 years of service at KU or an agency for the state of Kansas, and be active participants in the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System or in the Kansas Board of Regents mandatory retirement plan.
“This was not an easy decision, however, it is one that will help enable the university to plan and forecast its continued capacity to provide high-quality educational experiences and exceptional research on our Lawrence and Edwards campuses long into the future,” Bichelmeyer said.
Applicants who are accepted into the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program will receive a lump-sum cash payment of $100,000 or their fiscal year 2021 budgeted base salary — whichever is lower — minus any legally required deductions, such as federal and state taxes. They then must retire by Dec. 31, 2020, and they would not be eligible to be rehired at KU for the next 12 months.
Employees ineligible for the VISP option include those who have already stated their intention to retire or have a phased-in retirement agreement already in place with KU, employees whose positions are funded through grants and employees who were on sabbatical in the spring semester of 2020.
KU spokesperson Erinn Barcomb-Peterson told the Journal-World there are likely between 500 and 600 faculty and staff members eligible for the program, though the number could vary due to the university’s size. The window for eligible members to apply runs from Monday through July 10.
On a new website detailing the program, separate from Bichelmeyer’s announcement, a frequently asked questions section of the site indicates that KU anticipates the VISP program being a one-time option that they won’t offer again “in the foreseeable future.”
And though the university said it hopes to allow “as many eligible faculty and staff as possible to participate” in the program, it will review all applicants on an individual basis to ensure academic units at the university aren’t damaged by too many senior faculty retiring at once, for example.
KU last offered a similar buyout program in 2018 when undergoing a $20 million budget cut at the direction of former interim Provost Carl Lejuez. That program saw 65 full program applicants out of 267 eligible faculty members, the Journal-World previously reported. Unlike the 2020 program, the 2018 program was not open to staff members.
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