Hammond says FHSU will analyze strategies for coping with cut to 2006 funding level

"The latest allotment announced Monday by Gov. Mark Parkinson reduces state funding for higher education to the 2006 level," said Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president. "Together with the earlier allotment, this adds up to a budget problem in this fiscal year, which began July 1, of $784,000. In total, the state has now reduced its support for FHSU by $4.5 million -- 13 percent -- since last Christmas."

Gov. Parkinson announced the latest cuts in response to recent projections of continuing revenue shortfalls. "It is my obligation as a leader to balance the budget," the governor said Monday. "But it is also my duty to protect our most precious resources. So I have once again balanced the budget. I promised that I would and I have kept that promise."

President Hammond said the governor would not be able to make further cuts in funding for the Kansas Board of Regents system without jeopardizing the state's half-billion dollars in federal stimulus money. The federal program requires states to hold funding for education at no less than 2006 levels.

The FHSU president said he agreed with Gary Sherrer, vice chair of the Regents, who issued a statement Monday afternoon that said in part: "The system has certainly shouldered its fair share of the state's budget burden, and we're now beyond the point where cuts are undermining the quality and quantity of the education our institutions are able to offer. While today's allotments push us to the brink in terms of the minimum funding levels required to retain eligibility for federal stimulus dollars, we appreciate the governor's decision to limit higher education cuts to Fiscal Year 2006 levels. The size of today's cut reflects the governor's strong support for higher education and his recognition of the critical role the system will play in the state's economic recovery."

President Hammond said the cuts for FHSU since the economic downturn began last fall had already caused the elimination of 30 positions, forced the university to have larger class sizes than it had traditionally offered and necessitated the elimination of some classes.

"We still have the Legislature convening in January and faced with the task of putting together the FY2011 budget," he said. "Monday's allotment of $100,000 means next year's budget for FHSU must be reduced by a total of $784,000."

The president said he would convene a University Open Forum at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 1, to discuss cuts to the FHSU budget and to analyze what additional steps the university must take. "We will continue our four-step strategy of reducing our operating costs by implementing efficiencies, making cuts in the budgets of offices and departments, generating new revenue through enrollment growth, and instituting marginal increases in tuition," he said.

The Regents recently directed the six state universities to respond to an evaluation of efficiencies in their operations by the Legislative Division of Post Audit. FHSU empanelled not only university personnel but also representatives of area businesses and industry to prepare its response. "Our task force recognized and appreciated the extensive efficiencies that we have implemented and concluded that we are being highly efficient already, but we will have to look for further efficiencies," President Hammond said.

"We will analyze the situation and talk to everyone next Tuesday about the impact of reducing state financial support to 2006 levels," the president said. "Kansans have been enrolling at FHSU in record numbers, and this cumulative 13-percent reduction in state funding tests our ability to meet their educational needs.

"We are in difficult economic times and we need to educate our way to a better economy. We are in a brain race and we cannot leave any Kansan behind. We have to close the opportunity gap if our state is going to recover, grow and prosper. Any further reductions below the 2006 funding level will be devastating to the future of FHSU and to the future of the state of Kansas."

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