Dr. Edward H. Hammond said this morning that the budget recommendation from Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for the 2007 session of the Kansas Legislature was the best he had seen in his 20 years as president of Fort Hays State University.
"We just received the document yesterday, which is thousands of pages, and we're working our way through it," the president said. "Based on what we've read and heard so far, this seems to be the most positive budget recommendation for higher education that I've seen during my presidency."
President Hammond said the governor called for an increase of $30 million in block grants, which will translate to a 5-percent increase in FHSU's operating budget.
He also was pleased that Gov. Sebelius recommended a 4-percent increase for the state's classified employees plus a one-step movement in their classifications.
In addition, the governor recommended adding $3 million in financial aid for students who qualify for needs-based aid. "FHSU has an unusually high number of students who qualify, so this recommendation will be especially helpful for our students," he said. "This is three times the previous amount that has been approved."
President Hammond joined the Kansas Board of Regents and other university presidents last fall in urging that the governor and the Legislature begin to fund the $727 million in deferred maintenance on their campuses. That was not addressed in the governor's budget recommendation, but she indicated her support and promised to present a comprehensive plan for deferred maintenance funding sometime in the next few weeks.
The president noted that the speaker of the House and the Senate president have also committed to provide for this vital need at the Regents universities. "It seems there is a perfect storm brewing to get this thing solved," he said.