KU announces universitywide salary cuts for those paid over $50K; no immediate plans for furloughs

photo by: Associated Press

A bus makes its way along Jayhawk Boulevard in front of Strong Hall on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Story updated at 1:22 p.m. Friday

Every employee at the University of Kansas who makes an annual salary over $50,000 will see a scaled pay reduction over six months as the university manages an unprecedented budget crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chancellor Douglas Girod and Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer announced a series of new budgeting measures Friday afternoon, including absorbing carryforward balances — or rainy-day funds — and savings from vacant positions in all campus units, and an ongoing review of the efficiency of administrative services.

All told, the budgeting measures can be expected to save KU nearly $62 million — about half of the $120 million budget shortfall the university faces in the coming fiscal year, Girod and Bichelmeyer said. The salary reductions will save $7.9 million, the carryforward balance absorption will save $38 million, and the administrative review will save $16 million for the next fiscal year.

“By now it’s clear we are facing one of the most challenging times in KU history. We hope it’s also clear we do not take lightly the financial decisions we have to make,” the two leaders said in a written campus message to faculty and staff members. “We know this is a stressful situation, and we appreciate all you are doing for KU as we work through these circumstances together. We are trying to be as creative and compassionate as possible to address financial shortfalls in a way that continues to prioritize our greatest asset — employees like you.”

The scaled salary reductions will begin on Aug. 23, with the first reduction coming in the Sept. 18 paycheck, KU said. The reduction will run for six months through Feb. 20, covering 13 pay periods. The reductions will not impact employees’ health insurance coverage or premiums or their accrual of leave time.

The scaled reductions are as follows:

• Employees making less than $50,000: 0%

• $50,000 to $59,999: 1%

• $60,000 to $69,999: 2%

• $70,000 to $79,999: 3%

• $80,000 to $89,999: 4%

• $90,000 to $99,999: 5%

• $100,000 to $119,999: 6%

• $120,000 to $139,999: 7%

• $140,000 to $159,999: 8%

• $160,000 to $179,999: 9%

• $180,000 to $199,999: 10%

• Employees making over $200,000: 11%

Because of the other cost-saving measures, Girod and Bichelmeyer said KU had no immediate plans to institute employee furloughs to further save money. The message clarified, though, that “it seems likely that some individual units – particularly those with employees who aren’t currently working due to reduced campus operations – may need to pursue unit-specific furloughs.”

Though the largest measures KU has announced so far, Friday’s budget announcement was only the latest in a string of recent cost-cutting measures at Kansas’ flagship university.

On April 27, the university announced a 10% pay cut for six months for 40 school leaders and administrators, a measure which saved $573,500.

On June 8, KU announced a Voluntary Separation Incentive Program for certain faculty and staff to retire by Dec. 31. The exact impact of that program is not yet known, but between 500 and 600 university employees are eligible for the buyout plan.

And on June 9, the university announced leadership changes at the Edwards Campus in Overland Park, which combined job duties and saved two salary lines. Based on state payroll records this change saved KU around $471,000.

In Friday’s message, Girod and Bichelmeyer noted that there are still many unknowns facing KU and its financial situation — including fall enrollment numbers, possible state budget cuts, and whether Congress passes another stimulus package with more direct funding for colleges and universities.

“In light of these unknowns, we must continue to focus on controlling our controllables,” they said.

Contact Conner Mitchell

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