University cuts $5.5M to prepare for fallout

Nicole Stempak

Kent State tightened its belt by another $5.5 million because of current economic conditions.

“The story here is that over the last few months, or the last few weeks, I have been asking the vice presidents and deans to be preparing for changes in our budget,” President Lester Lefton said, adding they are anticipating the state budget to not be in good shape even with help from the federal government. ” … I’m not even going to call it budget cuts; they’re adjustments.

“I think of it that way because, like a family, when you cut back it doesn’t mean that you throw away your children or you move out of your house. It means you put off buying a suit maybe until next year, or you don’t replace the family car this year.”

What the budget

adjustments means to you:

&bull President Lester Lefton said students shouldn’t see an impact – for now. The university is saving money mostly through unfilled positions. Depending if and how much the state budget is revised, it could mean layoffs, said Gregg Floyd, vice president for finance and administration.

President Barack Obama signed the $787 billion economic stimulus bill yesterday. The final bill gives states money to ease budget cuts to colleges and schools but is still less than earlier versions of the bill.

Gov. Ted Strickland relied on the federal stimulus bill for much of his proposed plans, including extending the tuition freeze. At the time, the federal stimulus bill was projected to be larger than it is now.

Gregg Floyd, vice president for finance and administration, would not comment on the proposed tuition freeze but says it will be largely determined by how the state prioritizes the money it receives from the federal government.

“Everybody … is very sensitive to the cost of education and has the desire to keep that cost as low as possible,” he said. “But there’s also the question of ensuring that we maintain the quality so that the degree that we provide is of the highest level.”

Lefton said the good news so far is that the budget adjustments will have little to no impact on students because the deans and vice presidents are largely saving this money through unfilled positions.

He said a hypothetical secretary or faculty position that’s been vacant for three or four months could be cut.

“That person hasn’t been there anyway,” he said. “We’re just not going to fill it.”

Each of the vice presidents has submitted a list of budget adjustments, Floyd said. The extent of the adjustment is proportionate to the vice presidents’ share of the university budget.

“All that’s basically saying is that each area of the university share in proportion to their size,” he said. “So if my area of responsibility was 20 percent of the university budget, then 20 percent of that five-and-a-half million dollars of cut had to come from my area.”

No one is excluded from the budget cuts, including Lefton. He said he had to reduce his budget by about $134,000. He said he is not planning to fill the special assistant position formerly occupied by Yank Heisler. Lefton will also not hire a student worker.

Floyd said he is meeting with the vice presidents to finalize the first phase and discuss “what might be the next levels of priority that they would identify for further cuts if they become necessary.”

Kent State is still waiting for the state budget to be finalized and passed in June. The university’s budget will follow.

Lefton said if the governor revises his initial budget proposal, the effect on higher education could be dramatic.

Contact administration reporter Nicole Stempak at [email protected].