Threat of cuts forcing change

default

Story by Mary Bradley, Editor-in-Chief and Bailey Bohannan, Staff writer

Murray State will lose $11 million in state appropriation between this April and June 2018 if Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed budget passes the state legislature.

Bevin released the numbers during his budget speech in late January and proposed that after the $11 million in budget cuts, appropriations will eventually transition to being based off each university’s performance, known as performance funding.

The proposed budget cuts have spurred action from all levels of the university and across the state. Murray State and the Student Government Association have promoted advocacy about the budget cuts and have encouraged the university community to sign a change.org petition against the reductions.

Under Bevin’s plan, all Kentucky universities may receive a 4.5 percent cut in funding by June 30, when the 2015-16 fiscal year ends. For Murray State, this equates to about $2.1 million dollars of the current $48 million in state appropriations.

President Bob Davies said the university receives state appropriations in quarterly installments during the year, with the last installment yet to come during this fiscal year.

He said the university intends to take care of making the 4.5 percent cuts “as much as possible early on.” The university will either take the money out of the next installment or ask to have it subtracted from next year’s state funding.

“The more you delay these types of actions, the more serious it is and more impactful it could be,” Davies said. “So, we would like to do the earlier the better.”

Right now, state appropriations make up 28 percent of the university’s total budget – $169.2 million – according to the 2015-16 Budget Summary. However, Davies said this percentage funds the core components of the university.

While auxiliary funds exist, like Dining Services and Housing, Davies said funding from those entities go back into supporting themselves and can’t make up for the state cuts. He said some legislators believe auxiliary funds can help alleviate the effects of budget cuts, but that is not the way the university operates.

“The education in general fund is what our core responsibilities are for the teaching and learning function of the institution,” he said. “That’s where we apply the state appropriations.”

AFTER JULY 1, 2016

If Bevin’s budget is passed, the university’s appropriations will decrease 9 percent – $4,322,200 – effective July 1, 2016. For 2016-17 and 2017-18 fiscal years, the proposed budget will be $43 million for each year.

Effective July 1, 2017, one-third of Murray State’s budget will be allocated through performance funding. State appropriations will be reduced to $29 million, and $14 million will be placed in a performance funding pool. Essentially, universities will compete to gain more, less or the same amount of that funding back and is based on metrics that may be developed during the summer, according to the email sent by Davies.

In fiscal year 2018-19, another one-third of funding will be moved into a performance funding pool. By fiscal year 2019-20, every penny of state appropriations will be based on performance.

That means all eight Kentucky public universities – including Murray State – would compete for a share of $282 million, according to the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.

Davies said that model of performance funding can’t sustain public universities.

“Higher education is not a one-year process,” he said. “It is a process that evolved over time and continually grows.”

Additionally, Davies said the effects of the budget cuts don’t stop at the boarders of Murray State’s campus. He said the 18-country service region will see a $54 million impact from the cuts, which is a conservative estimate.

LOOKING AHEAD

The university has not made any official plans on what will need to happen for the possible budget cuts, but Davies said action is being taken.

“The deans, the vice presidents, everyone’s looking within their units and saying, ‘OK, what are some of the things that we can do?’” he said.
“So, it’s too early to say specifically what those will be. But, a part of this, too, is that we want to do this as a university.”

Davies said he has no intentions of it being an across-the-board cut or a cost-cutting exercise. Rather, he said it is more of a strategic alignment with a focus on priorities, like the strategic plan, graduation and retention rates, rigor of academic programs and recruiting high-achieving students.

He said there has been worry and uncertainty across campus and about the budget proposals and performance funding, but he intends to help the university change and adapt during this process.

“Assuming that these things go through and there is no change, we’ll be a little bit smaller in some areas,” he said. “Overall, we’ll be smaller and you can define that in many different ways, but we’ll be streamlined, we’ll be more focused, we’ll be more dedicated to certain things and stronger … but, we will continue to be focused in on being the best student-centered university in America and making that a realization.”

President of the Kentucky Council of Postsecondary Education, Robert King, said moving forward, the CPE intends to cover all bases when addressing the cut in funding.

“We will be working with the governor, we will be working with the legislature, and we will be working with all of our campus presidents to see what we can do to address the funding question,” he said.

Overall, King said he is determined to help state institutions lower costs and come together as a united front while also providing for a strong work-force in the future.

“Obviously, we wish the burden that is falling on our intuitions wasn’t as high as it is, but we understand that [Bevin’s] got a tough job to do and it means that we are all going to have to work together and see if we can’t find more efficient ways to do the work that we do, and to at the same time, continue to try and help contribute to the long-term solution which is to create a great workforce for the 21st century,” he said.

MAKING A STATEMENT

In response to the budget cuts, many students have organized to take action along with the university. A change.org petition circulated after the Student Government Association, or SGA, created it. As of Wednesday, the petition has gained more than 3,000 signatures of the 5,000 signature goal.

Clint Combs, SGA president, said the petition was created in an effort to reach all students – not just those who attended events like “Racers in Action.”

He said that once the goal is reached or when the petition stops receiving signatures, the group will print it out and send it to Frankfort, Kentucky.

Combs said the response to the budget proposal has been interesting, and students are learning the facts, but he hopes students will continue to learn more and stay involved.

But ultimately, Combs said that he believes the university will make it through.

“I know Murray State will find a way to make it through this, regardless of what the end  outcome is,” he said. “We have great leadership on this campus. We’ve got great faculty and staff. So, we’ll do well regardless.”