Spring Convocation features talk of innovation to deal with budget uncertainty

Fort Hays State University President Edward H. Hammond began his State of the University address for 2013 with an unknown – that the budget is still uncertain because the Kansas Legislature has still not finished the state's budget, and then stated a known.

"What we do know," he said, "is we've had an outstanding year, and the outstanding year is primarily because of each and every one of you, the work that you have put in to making our university not only truly unique but one that is looked upon by almost everyone in the state and a lot of people around the country as a very innovative, high-quality institution."

Still, he said, the state budget state of flux "does change the fact that we still have to submit one to Topeka by the first of June."

He proceeded to outline a "creative and innovative" approach. He had two primary objectives, to support and reward the creativity and innovation of the faculty and to continue "to try to guarantee that you are "adequately financially rewarded for the work that you do here at Fort Hays State University."

"And so that's where our resources have gone."

Most additional resources will go into eight or nine new faculty positions and in salaries for faculty and staff. He again lamented the fact that he cannot, by law, do anything for classified staff. The plan he outlined is to give raises of 2 percent merit pool, which will be added to base salaries. In addition, he will give an additional 2.5 percent in a bonus pool, to be paid across the 26 pay periods of the year.

He went into the three sources of revenue for the university: the state, tuition, and growth. From the state, at best, he said, FHSU will hold even this year. Two proposals are in the Legislature: One will cut $700,000; the other cuts about $1.4 million or $1.5 million, basically a choice between a 2 percent or a 4 percent cut, he said.

The governor's plan to hold higher education even, with no cut or increase, said Hammond, is not on the table.

"It could get there quickly if they want to do it," he said, "but it currently isn't on the table."

On tuition, the university is proposing a 3-percent increase, from about $108 to a little more than $111 per credit hour. Growth this year is not as much as last year, he said, but there is some growth money, and as a result of the tuition increase and growth, about $1.7 million will be available, the vast majority for the salary package, the 2-percent merit pool he is proposing in the budget for all unclassified employees.

He noted that teaching faculty, through their bargaining unit, the AAUP, voted to distribute the 2-percent merit pool across the board, amounting to $1,100 per person.

The bonus money, he said, is based on approximately $700,000 in energy savings expected from the two wind-power units, which will go online later this year. That amounts to another 2.5 percent.

"If the Legislature does the right thing and not cut us during this year, sometime this fall or in January we'll flip that one-time bonus into your base," he said, which will make the merit pool total 4.5 percent.

If, however, FHSU takes a 2-percent cut in state funding when the Legislature is done, the bonus will still be paid out in the coming fiscal year, but will end next year. If the university is cut more than 2 percent, he said, the bonus pool will still be paid out for FY2014, and the remainder of the cut will be made up out of strategic planning money, which has been done in the past.

President Hammond drew applause at one point. He pointed to two summaries in the handout. One showed that, over the last four years, teaching faculty salaries across all ranks have increased by an average of 11.2 percent, which he said has not happened anywhere else.

The applause came when he pointed to another table in the handout. This one showed that this year, for the first time in his 26 years as president, the average salary at each rank -- instructor, assistant professor, associate professor and full professor -- is higher at FHSU than at either Pittsburg State or Emporia State.

The president also announced the recipients of the Faculty Awards for the spring semester. Dr. Beth Walizer, associate professor of teacher education, won the teaching award; Dr. Jennifer Bonds-Raacke, associate professor of psychology, was recognized for research; and Dr. Jenny Manry, assistant professor of nursing, was presented with the service award. All three recipients received a $500 award for their accomplishments.

Tom Thomas, president of Commerce Bank, the corporate sponsor of the awards, presented the award checks.

The convocation also featured the annual report from the president of the Faculty Senate, Dr. Emily Breit, assistant professor of economics, finance and accounting, and the annual meeting of the Graduate Faculty and the annual report of the dean of graduate studies, Dr. Tim Crowley.

After the convocation, Lewis Automotive Group sponsored a reception for faculty, staff and administrators in one of the group's showrooms at 4440-4450 Vine.

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Kent Steward, Director   |  ksteward@fhsu.edu  |  Kurt Beyers, Assistant Director   |  kbeyers@fhsu.edu