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Thursday, May 12, 2011

As next year's state budget nears completion, President Hammond discusses impact on FHSU

The Kansas Legislature may have broken the budget logjam for fiscal year 2012, which begins July 1, and Dr. Edward H. Hammond talked today about what the impact could be for Fort Hays State University.

First, though, he cautioned that the budget decision still was not final. "It's not over yet," he said. "The conference committee passed a compromise budget Wednesday night that now must be approved by the full House and the full Senate and then must go to Gov. Sam Brownback for his signature."

If the budget goes forward as proposed by the conference committee, it will mean a $1 million reduction in next year's FHSU budget from the current budget, "This cut will take us back to the level of state financial support that we had in fiscal year 2005," he said.

President Hammond said that with another $1 million in unfunded mandates, FHSU was actually facing a reduction of about $2 million. "We will lose about $570,000 to $600,000 in across-the-board cuts and the remainder in an assortment of specific smaller cuts," he said. "The other million dollars represents expenditures we are required to make but are not funded by the state, most notably a $606,000 increase in employer health insurance costs next year."

The reduction to the 2005 level of state support is especially difficult given the extraordinary growth at FHSU. The university had a fall enrollment of just over 9,000 in 2005. Next year FHSU will serve more than 12,000 students, an increase of 3,000, with that same amount of money.

"We can manage the challenges," he said. "Two years ago we implemented a number of efficiencies and made changes, such as significantly reducing summer school and moving to a four-day, 10-hour-a-day work week in the summer, that put us in position to deal with this latest reduction."

However, he quickly added, "We can't take more cuts."

President Hammond said his greatest immediate concern was the way classified employees were being treated. The Legislature, not university presidents, makes salary decisions for classified employees, who are the rank and file workers such as custodians and secretaries and physical plant laborers. By contrast, university presidents make final salary decisions for unclassified employees, who are the faculty and professional staff.

The budget that was passed out of the conference committee gives no raises to classified employees. Also, it cancels the fourth year of a five-year plan to upgrade classified employee salaries to market levels. Many classified employees received those adjustments over the past three years, but some were not scheduled to receive the adjustments until the next two years. In addition, the proposed budget adds a 2.5-percent surcharge to health care premiums of classified employees. "The surcharge will amount to about a $50 per year tax on each employee, but considering that they will not receive raises, it seems like a slap in the face," the president said. "They are being treated unfairly. Those making the least are the ones having their salaries cut."

With university budgets due next week, the staff at FHSU must work non-stop to make final decisions in light of the legislative action. And the president repeated that the state budget was not yet final.

Kent L. Steward
Director, University Relations
204 Sheridan Hall
Fort Hays State University
600 Park Street
Hays, KS 67601-4099

office: (785) 628-4208
cell: (785) 365-3478
fax: (785) 628-4152
home: (785) 625-8493

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