With the economic downturn threatening revenues, the state of Kansas, via the Kansas Board of Regents, has requested that universities present proposals for budget cuts of up to 7 percent, University of Kansas Provost Richard Lariviere told KU leaders today.
The request from the state asks for budget-cutting proposals of 2 percent of State General Fund dollars in the current fiscal year and 5 percent in FY 2010, for a cumulative 7 percent cut.
For planning purposes, KU is requesting units propose cuts to operating expenses of $5.5 million for FY 2009 and cumulatively $14.7 million in FY 2010. The figures also include an internal reallocation of $2.6 million in FY 2009 and $4.5 million in FY 2010 to address expected higher energy costs.
Lariviere repeated Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ request that cuts impacting key instructional programs be avoided. Although the proposed cuts would be larger for administrative areas, any cuts made would likely have an impact on students.
“While I want to wait and see what the individual units come back with, I anticipate we’ll see proposals for the reduction or elimination of programs and services,” Lariviere said. “Even when setting out to protect key instructional programs, it isn’t possible to make cuts of this magnitude without affecting students. Every function of this institution affects students, but what won’t be short changed is the product they receive in the robust learning environment that is KU’s hallmark.”
In addition to avoiding cuts to key instructional programs, Lariviere asked deans and vice provosts to seek out cuts that would have minimal harm on the research taking place at KU.
“The federal and private grants our teachers and researchers bring to KU are how we’re able to achieve a 3-to-1 return on the state’s investment,” he said. “Cutting research to obtain a small short-term savings will have larger long-term costs.”
Because it is a public institution, KU has always sought to make tax and tuition dollars go further. The current economic conditions will force increased efficiency and more prioritization.
“We strive to be good stewards of the tuition and tax dollars we’re entrusted with, which is why KU has already been holding the line on costs,” Lariviere said. “We are always open to finding new, more efficient ways to operate, and we’ve implemented many new ideas in recent years.”
Lariviere cited the pilot purchasing project begun in June 2007 as an example of how KU has already been using innovative ways to save money. A new contract signed as part of the project is credited with saving at least $172,000 on computer purchases, with savings from this and other projects being realized in areas ranging from energy costs to the acquisition of laboratory equipment and furniture.
The Board of Regents is expected to discuss universities’ budget-reduction proposals at its Aug. 19-21 retreat.