KSU budget outlook better than expected, President Diacon says at trustees meeting

KentWired Staff

Kent State University President Todd Diacon said during the June 3 Board of Trustees meeting the budget outlook for the university is better than expected, despite the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent projections show only an estimated 10% cut overall of $52 million, he said, rather than the planned-for, worst-case scenario the university was anticipating of a 20% reduction of roughly $109 million. 

Diacon said enrollment appears to be 5% lower, which equals about a $20 million revenue loss. The university is continuing to plan for a 20% reduction in the State Share of Instruction from Ohio, however, which translates to a loss of $32 million. The $52 million total of the two figures is still twice the amount of any budget cuts in the university’s history.

The board met via Zoom to discuss and vote on agenda items that included the university’s finances, COVID-19 response and personnel actions.

A “post-retirement,” voluntary transitional opportunity for full-time faculty members was approved, allowing them three years of tiered part-time employment depending on the needs of their academic college. 

Faculty who elect the option would be paid at the rate of 1/36 per credit hour based on their salary at retirement, and can teach part-time and/or perform administrative duties in their academic units. 

They would also be eligible for the voluntary separation incentive program for faculty and staff members that was approved May 6. Applications for the part-time option close June 24.

The board also:

  • Raised tuition rates for the incoming freshman class by 4.1%. Tuition for current undergraduate and graduate students remains the same as part of the tuition guarantee model established in 2017. The tuition for the new freshman cohort at the Kent Campus will be $5,716 per semester, an increase of $225.

  • Approved the selection of UFA, Inc. as the vendor for a new air traffic control simulator for the College of Aeronautics and Engineering. The proposed purchase agreement will be for an initial term of three years at $770,000, with the option to renew software licensing and updates for up to seven years at $60,000 per year, funded by the College of Aeronautics and Engineering.

  • Approved the selection of Dynegy Energy Services East LLC as the vendor for electrical services across Kent State’s regional campuses. The university will enter a 22-month contract with the company, not to exceed $850,000 annually or a total of $1.56 million over the period. 

  • Approved the selection of Solar Turbine Inc. as the vendor for the replacement of the combustion turbine (Gas Turbine #2) at the Summit Street Power Plant at an estimated cost of approximately $1.25 million.

The board authorized the university to spend 80% of the expenditure levels from fiscal year 2020 to cover expenses beginning July 1. The total expenditure authorization for fiscal year 2021 will be $527,635,362.

The university plans to recommend a balanced operating budget for 2021 at the board’s next meeting in September, once more information about student enrollment, how the university will operate in the fall and changes to state support is available.

Diacon said the university will have a positive fund balance of $6 to $7 million dollars for the 2020 fiscal year, which will be used as a source of one-time funds to cover expenses related to COVID-19 as the university reopens. 

The board also approved a new name for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, which will now be called the School of Media and Journalism.

The board elected Shawn Riley as the chair for 2020-2021, replacing Ralph Della Ratta. Virginia Addicott will be vice chair and Robin Kilbride will be secretary.

In closing, the Board approved a resolution of appreciation for Barbara Broome, who will retire as dean and Henderson Memorial Endowed Chair of the College of Nursing on June 30. 

Maria McGinnis, [email protected], and Jenna Borthwick, [email protected], contributed to this report.