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Ransdell: Deal Reached on Spending Cuts to Higher Education


Western Kentucky University president Gary Ransdell says the state’s universities have reached a compromise with Governor Matt Bevin and House and Senate leaders over cuts to higher education funding.

In an email to faculty and staff Saturday, Ransdell said schools would get back some of the state funding that Bevin recently cut from the last quarter of the current fiscal year. The governor had enacted a 4.5 percent cut, saying the money was needed to help bolster the state’s public pension systems.

Under the plan described by Ransdell, that cut will be reduced to 2 percent. For WKU, that means a one-time loss of $1.49 million, instead of $3.35 million.

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear has challenged Bevin’s authority to unilaterally enact such cuts to the current fiscal year support for universities, and has said he’ll sue the Governor over the issue.

Ransdell says the deal negotiated Friday also spells out cuts for universities over the next two fiscal years.

In his email, Ransdell said schools will face a “reduction in our cut for next year from 9 percent to 4 ½ percent.”

Bevin wanted state lawmakers to pass a two-year budget that contained a 9 percent cut in funding for colleges and universities. The reduced cut would cost WKU $3.35 million over the course of the next two-year budget cycle, as opposed to a $6.71 million loss had the 9 percent cut happened.

“This helps but is still a serious cut to our state appropriation,” Ransdell said in his message to WKU employees.

According to Ransdell, he and his fellow school leaders hope that their acceptance of a compromise on funding cuts will help lawmakers and Governor Bevin reach a budget deal this week. 

“The House wanted no cuts. The Senate wanted a 9 percent cut. Perhaps now they can find common ground on the remaining issues in the budget,” Ransdell wrote.

Ransdell included in his email an attachment containing a proposal he plans to put forth to the school’s Board of Regents at its April 22 meeting. In order to handle the proposed $1.49 million cut to WKU’s current fiscal year funding, Ransdell is asking the regents to tap the school’s Reserve Fund, which he says currently contains $3.48 million.

“The WKU Reserve exists to cover one time emergencies and to acquire property when unexpected opportunities surface,” Ransdell said. “Use of the Reserve requires Board action.  We will replenish the Reserve with draws from divisional fund balance money after July 1, assuming the draw down by the Governor is legally permissible.”

Part of future funding for state supported universities and colleges would be based on a performance model related to schools meeting certain metrics.

Under an agreement reached with the Senate and the Governor, school presidents “will play a role in defining the emerging Performance Funding outcomes-based approach to appropriating state money to our public colleges and universities,” Ransdell said. “I will be directly involved in the process leading up to a legislative proposal for the 2017 General Assembly.”

Kevin is the News Director at WKU Public Radio. He has been with the station since 1999, and was previously the Assistant News Director, and also served as local host of Morning Edition.
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