Share page: 

Budget the focus of town hall talk

May 19, 2014 12:45PM

With the exception of the ceremonial final gavel, the 2014 Kansas Legislature’s work is done, so President Steve Scott and Shawn Naccarato, director of government and community relations, held one last town hall discussion for the campus community on Friday, May 16, to review the lawmakers’ actions and their effects on PSU.

They reported some positives for PSU in the session. Among those were a 50 percent restoration of the previously imposed salary cap and $1 million that was targeted for the Career and Technical Education Teacher Development and Innovation Center. And although there was no action on a proposed 1.5 percent pay increase for classified staff, all state employees will get a $250 bonus check in December.

“All things considered, higher education came out well,” Naccarato said.

President Scott said recent additions to PSU’s budget that have been targeted at specific programs are welcome and important to the university’s future. But he expressed concern over the lack of growth in the university’s basic block grant, which has been reduced to 2005 levels.

That puts extreme pressure on tuition, Scott said.

“We have two main revenue sources, the state block grant and tuition,” Scott said. “So if you want salary increases, where’s that coming from?”

The president said the university has tried to disconnect raises from tuition, but with a flat or declining state block grant, that’s no longer possible.

Scott showed a graph comparing the state block grant for the university from 2005 through 2015 with inflation rates as measured by both the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the Higher Education Price Index (HEPI). The graph showed a gap of between $9 million and $13 million over the decade.

As part of his presentation, the president shared the university’s tuition proposal, which is now under consideration by the Board of Regents.  The proposal calls for a $113 (4.8 percent) increase in full-time, undergraduate tuition. A significant portion of that increase, the president said, will go to a modest increase in salaries.

“We were told by the board (of Regents) we had to arrive with a proposal that included a salary increase,” Scott said. “The classified staff hasn’t had an increase in five years.”

The Tuition Committee supported a 6 percent increase, but the President’s Council trimmed that down.

“The President’s Council looks at that request through not only a financial, but also a political lens,” Scott said. “We believe we can make this thing work.”

Although their focus was on the session just ended and the year just ahead, both Naccarato and Scott said they are keeping an eye on potential storm clouds on the horizon.

The concern is that recent significant tax cuts will have their full impact in FY 2016, especially if the cuts fail to spur business growth as some have predicted.

“Even under the rosiest projections,” Naccarato said, “the state was expected to hit a trough. Next year is going to be a rough year, I’m afraid.”

©2014 Pittsburg State University