All hands on deck

John MuenzbergJohn Muenzberg

Column by John Muenzberg, Lecturer of philosophy

Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed budget has sent a shock wave through the Murray State community.

His proposals could be devastating to Murray State, but there are actions that we can take.

The proposed budget is hitting Murray State in three ways. First is a 4.5 percent reduction in revenue for the 2016-17 school year. The second is a 9 percent reduction in future years. The third is a move to performance funding.

All three of these changes have their own problems.

The 4.5 percent reduction is not a reduction for this coming fall, but rather a reduction for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2016.

Murray State has to return $2.16 million that the commonwealth of Kentucky already promised us – money that has already been budgeted for salaries and materials; money that is budgeted for offices and classes. This leaves Murray State with fewer places to cut the funds. And with fewer options, we may have to cut the funds in places that are not in our best interest.

The 9 percent cut is a permanent reduction in the amount that Murray State receives from the state. Officially this is a 9 percent reduction to all campuses, but not all campuses will have the same reduction in the end.

For example, Northern Kentucky University will see a net increase from 48.5 million in 2016 to 49.5 million in 2017. This amounts to a base increase of about 13 percent before the 9 percent reduction.

The apparent reason for this change is that Northern Kentucky charges more in tuition, and so the state contribution is a lower percentage of total funding.

In recent years, tuition increases here have been smaller than other campuses and were met with a reduction in spending by the university. This compromise forced all stakeholders to feel some of the pain of state reductions. But in comparison to other campuses, too much of our budget is dependent on the state contribution. In essence, Murray State is being penalized for being frugal with their funds.

The last issue is performance-based funding. The most common form of performance-based funding is giving universities money based on the total number of students enrolled. The more students you enroll, the more money you receive. Generally, this typically covers only 5-10 percent of the university’s budget. For the university, this is easy to predict.

The commonwealth of Kentucky, on the other hand, wants to move to a system of 100 percent performance-based funding. And there are no guidelines yet decided.

Moving to 100 percent performance-based funding could cause unpredictable budget changes that will adversely affect Murray State. Also, there is no budget increase with this change, which means there is no reward for accomplishing our goals, only penalties. And with no set priorities, we have no way to prepare. Universities need to plan years down the road, but the state is preventing this.

I hope to write more about these issues in the future. President Bob Davies has already reached out to the Murray State community for help. It is unlikely that activism will give us everything we want, but activism will prevent Gov. Bevin from making changes that will cause lasting damage to Murray State and other Kentucky universities. The health of Murray State affects the entire Purchase Area.

Go to murraystate.edu/actnow for information about the budget and about how to contact your state representative.