Reacting to new Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' Wednesday night State of the State Address, Dr. Edward H. Hammond, president of Fort Hays State University, praised her today for keeping her campaign pledge to protect education from further budget reductions.
"Prior to the governor's proposals in her speech, we were on tap to go on life-support systems and build a budget for next year with a $1.8 million hole," the president said. "If her recommendations become law, the challenge decreases to $1.65 million. So, in effect, she stopped the bleeding."
President Hammond cautioned, however, that a major challenge remains for Fort Hays State. The university's budget for fiscal year '03, which began July 1, 2002, and ends June 30 of this year, has suffered the equivalent of about 8 percent in cuts, and those reductions still must be dealt with.
"Gov. Sebelius' decision to not further cut our budget was a relief," he said.
The governor also proposed a 1.5 percent salary increase for faculty and staff who remain on board next year, Hammond noted.
"She is very aware that we will need to reduce positions and ask people to do more with less," he said.
"She wants to reward and recognize state employees with this increase. The increase is small but it sends a clear message of the value of state employees."
He said Fort Hays State would continue to work on preparing a fiscal year '04 budget that has approximately $1.65 million less to spend than the university had in its beginning FY03 budget. "This results from cuts made by Gov. Bill Graves last fall and from unfunded mandates, primarily health insurance costs, that the university must fund."
All in all, the president commended Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for the course she set in her State of the State Address.
"The governor promised to protect education and Fort Hays State University, and she kept her word," he said. "However, we still face a big challenge to develop a balanced budget for FY04."