Western Kentucky University should receive its regular appropriations when the Kentucky General Assembly begins work on the biennial budget next month.
WKU President Gary Ransdell doesn’t foresee any cuts in that $72.4 million appropriation each year for two years, he said after WKU Board of Regents committee meetings Friday. That money comes from a more than $960 million general fund appropriation each year for two years for all the universities and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.
The prospects of state money above that, however, aren’t a certainty, Ransdell said.
A funding model put together by the state Council on Postsecondary Education could provide Western Kentucky University $2.3 million for college and career readiness and $1.8 million for performance funding as part of about $50 million for all eight higher education institutions in each of the two budget years. Ransdell encouraged regents to contact Gov. Steve Beshear and ask him to include the CPE plan in his budget proposal to the legislature.
“It’s easier to keep something in the budget if it’s in the governor’s budget,” Ransdell said.
WKU still faces paying $2 million more annually into the Kentucky Employee Retirement System beginning in fiscal year 2015. Ransdell said university officials across Kentucky are asking that mandate be contained in the money the legislature is dedicating to fix the pension shortfall, which was agreed to in the last legislative session.
“That would be as important to us as a $2 million appropriation,” Ransdell said.
The performance funding is an attempt by the CPE to tie additional state funding to the number of degrees each university awards. College and career readiness tracks with Senate Bill 1’s mandate that Kentucky’s students must be college and career ready. The performance funding can be spent any way the university wants to spend it, but the college and career money has specific expenditure parameters.
Ransdell told the regents that upgrading the center wing of the Kelly Thompson Science Complex still remains the highest-priority capital project for WKU, especially in light of the recent shutdown of the North Wing of the science complex. A more than 50-year-old, malfunctioning heating and air conditioning system has forced university officials to red line the structure and transfer staff to the center wing and also into Snell Hall, said John Osborne, WKU vice president for facilities. The transfer will be completed by the time the university opens Jan. 6.
Ransdell told the regents that by the CPE developing a funding model, the universities can present a united front in Frankfort.
“It’s less competitive among the campuses,” he said.
The regents committees approved academic programs and personnel actions that will face the full board at its regular meeting in January.