WKU Employees Brace for Second Round of Budget Cuts

Apr 18, 2018

Western Kentucky University is once again in wait-and-see mode.  The school has announced plans to trim its budget by an additional $16 million. 

State budget cuts and increased pension obligations have already forced the elimination of 119 positions to help make up for a $15 million budget shortfall.

Staff Regent Tamela Smith says the reductions have affected morale and placed more responsibilities on remaining employees.

"You've taken on more work, probably without any additional compensation. You're having to do more, and in some cases, learn new skills even," Smith told WKU Public Radio. "The people that remain, it's very hard on them for a variety of reasons. You can't not be concerned about your job at this point."

Smith’s job as manager of audio-visual services was eliminated in the first round of cuts.  While she had already planned to retire, she says other employees face more uncertainty.

About half of the positions eliminated in March were vacant, but the filled positions were all staff members.  Smith feels that staff have taken a disproportionate amount of cuts so far, but says she understands that it’s harder to cut tenured faculty members.

In an email this week to faculty and staff, WKU President Timothy Caboni said the next round of budget cuts wouldn’t be across-the-board.  Instead, deans and division leaders would decide how to trim costs with as little job loss as possible. 

Dr. Caboni is asking divisions to trim $5.7 million to help make up for the $16 million shortfall.  Other savings would come through reorganization, attrition, and the elimination of vacant positions.  President Caboni said the university would implement a new budget model in 2019-20.

Smith, whose term on the Board of Regents expires June 30, credits school leaders for not making across-the-board cuts.  By making strategic reductions, she thinks WKU will be a stronger, more competitive university moving forward.