WKU announces second round of budget cuts

Western Kentucky University President Timothy Caboni meets with reporters Thursday, May 3, to announce a second round of budget cuts. 

Western Kentucky University released more details Thursday about a second round of budget cuts that will bring the university’s total spending reductions to roughly $27 million beginning July 1.

WKU President Timothy Caboni led a meeting with local reporters in which he announced the elimination of 10 filled positions and 20 vacant positions, including 12 faculty and eight staff members.

Caboni said there will be no additional job losses as a result of the cuts. He said a detailed list of cut positions will be released by the end of next week.

“This is, as far as I’m concerned, the end of an incredibly painful and difficult year for the institution and for everyone involved,” he said.

In March, WKU said it had cut 119 positions with 62 staff members being cut and 57 unfilled positions eliminated.

In that first round, WKU attempted to plug a $15 million budget shortfall and reached a total reduction of $13,192,740. The cuts also included dissolving WKU’s University College and shifting management of its regional campuses to the Division of Extended Learning and Outreach.

WKU’s regional campuses were hit hard by those cuts, which included elimination of its regional campus chancellor positions among other cuts.

On Thursday, Caboni announced the university will cut a total of $27,599,000 for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The reductions will come from $5,640,000 in further cuts to its division and college budgets.

Another $5,230,000 will be saved through vacant positions. WKU will continue a hiring chill that began last fall, with all new vacancies undergoing a strict review process.

WKU is trying to move away from a practice of using left over carry-forward money at the end of each fiscal year to balance its budget. However, $3,536,000 of carry-over funds will be used to help balance the budget next year.

Along with a 6.25 percent cut to state spending on higher education, Kentucky’s regional public universities are facing steep pension contribution costs. WKU’s situation is the result of a perfect storm of enrollment decline, state spending cuts and pension cost increases.

In a recent WKU Board of Regents meeting, it was noted that the university was facing an increase to its employer contribution rate to the Kentucky Employees Retirement System from 49 percent to 84 percent of an employee’s salary.

WKU was expecting the change to go into effect next year, but a freeze on its contribution rate will instead put that off until the following year.

Earlier this week, WKU spokesman Bob Skipper said in a statement that the university will close its floral shop following a dispute with local florists.

The 2018-19 fiscal year budget will be presented to the regents’ Finance and Budget Committee on May 11 and the full board will meet June 22 to consider its final approval.

Caboni said he was pleased the position cuts were much smaller than the first round of cuts. He credited the WKU community for handling the university’s financial challenges with grace.

“The WKU community has reacted and responded to this remarkably well,” he said.

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.

Education reporter. Covers education and related issues, focusing primarily on the Bowling Green and Warren County public school districts and Western Kentucky University.