Budget townhall update 1

Interim Provost Carl Lejuez talked about budget in Eaton Hall on Monday Aug. 27.

In the latest budget conversation, Interim Provost Carl Lejuez updated University of Kansas faculty and students on the current standing of the University’s budget and announced the next initiatives in dealing with the $20 million cut.

The conversation was introduced by Chancellor Douglas Girod, who listed issues like state funding as part of the problem, pointing to a $31 million reduction in state government funding last year.

“It was clear this year if we hadn’t made some changes we would be in debt,” Girod said.

Following open remarks from Girod, Lejuez took to the podium to break down how the University came to the point of needing $20 million budget reduction. At the moment, the University has $11 million in the central reserves, which represents about 2.57 percent of the base budget, or overall funds provided by state funding and tuition payments.

“When you think about our budget, this is a pretty risky level of saving,” Lejuez said.

As of now, the University’s academic units — which include departments like the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and School of Engineering — have planned to reduce their budget by an estimated total of $12.4 million. As of this month, 36 percent of the reduction has already been paid by academic units, according to Lejuez.

Much of that reduction will likely come from reducing faculty or leaving empty positions unfilled.

The other estimated $7.6 million of the overall cut is to be paid off by service units at the University — 68 percent of which has been paid as of Aug. 15.

Both service and academic units are expected to pay 100 percent of their cut by December of 2018.

As part of the strategic plan to get the University’s budget back on track, Lejeuz said he wants to improve facilities on campus, raise faculty pay and address benefits like travel and research funds.

At the moment, the University is $300 million behind in deferred maintenance — or maintenance to campus buildings — and accrues $20 million each year in deferred maintenance. The previous budget model didn’t account for the ongoing inflation, which, if unaddressed, would lead the University to be an estimated $1 billion behind in deferred maintenance in the next 25 years, Lejeuz said.

In the fall, the University plans to create a new budget model that allows for foundational priorities like faculty raises and building maintenance to be addressed at the start versus the end of the year. Lejuez said that the new budget model will be used in spring of 2019 to help with the next year’s budget reduction.

In terms of long-term strategic plans, Lejuez hopes to implement the new budget model with a possible provost advisory group, continue budget town halls and requests for anonymous feedback via email or through the website focusing on the budget reduction.

After the presentation, many faculty and students asked Lejuez to address their concerns about including university governance in the decision-making process and find alternative avenues to deal with the budget cuts.

Last week, University Faculty Senate President Kirk McClure sent out a letter addressing the budget cuts in which he asked administrators to pull funds from the KU Endowment Association, the University’s private jet, and Kansas Athletics to help cover half of the six percent cut.

In response, Lejuez said he wants to give new Athletics Director Jeff Long time to adjust to the University before proposing any contributions.

After listening to the town hall presentation, McClure said the provost’s response to these demands have not been adequate.

“I am very concerned that what we heard was ‘well we need to give the athletic director a honeymoon period,’” McClure said. “No, I think it’s completely the opposite. We need to put the athletic director on notice that his job is to start out on day one in the athletic corporation with a new budget that quits taking money from the University and starts making contribution back to the University.”

When asked to comment in response, Associate Athletics Director Jim Marchiony provided the Kansan with the following statement issued last week:

“We appreciate Professor McClure’s thoughts on the university budget. We believe a strong athletics program is inextricably linked to KU’s mission as a research institution and member of the Association of American Universities,” he said in an email.

Lejuez said the University will continue to host budget town halls to keep the campus community informed on the ongoing process to deal with the budget cuts.

“I want to make sure I don’t lose the human side of what’s happening,” Lejuez said.