FHSU president calls budget compromise acceptable

HAYS, KS -- Reacting to the Kansas Legislature's passage of a compromise budget package today, Dr. Edward H. Hammond, president of Fort Hays State University, expressed appreciation for a marginal increase in funding for higher education but noted that the state's universities were treated unfairly in comparison with community colleges and Washburn University.

The budget, hammered out in a conference committee, was passed by both the House and the Senate and will now go to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. The budget provides an operational grant of $11,643,908 for the six universities, including FHSU, that are governed by the Kansas Board of Regents. Of that amount, FHSU will receive roughly $753,000 in new resources.
The budget also provides $12,972,577 to fully fund the 27th pay period that will come due in fiscal year 2006.

The extra pay period results every 11 years under the state's biweekly pay system. Legislators had considered changing the pay schedule but decided to retain the biweekly system. However, the Regents system will have to contribute $1.2 million a year to fund its share of the next 27th pay period which will come due in another 11 years. That will represent an annual bill of about $75,000 for FHSU.

Finally, the budget approved by the Legislature includes $3,333,426 for faculty salary enhancements. That will provide approximately an additional 1-percent salary increase for teaching faculty over and above the base raises for university employees that are contained in the budget. FHSU will receive roughly $170,000 of that amount.

" I congratulate the legislative leadership, notably Sens. Steve Morris and Dwayne Umbarger and Reps. Melvin Neufeld and Doug Mays, for their hard work in developing an acceptable compromise," Dr. Hammond said. Two of those are western Kansas legislators. Morris, R-Hugoton, is president of the Senate, and Neufeld, R-Ingalls, is chair of the House Appropriations Committee. "This budget provides new resources for higher education in fiscal year 2006, which is significantly better than the original House budget that would have reduced our current higher education budget by about 1 percent," President Hammond said.

However, he noted that the budget passed Friday contained $6 million less for Regents universities than the budget originally proposed by Gov. Sebelius. The budget originally passed by the Senate basically followed the governor's recommendation.

" We especially appreciate the senators who arrived at the conference table with a strong bargaining position that recognized the importance of higher education for the citizens of Kansas," the president said. "I also thank the House conferees for their willingness to accept a compromise the includes modest increases for higher education."

The budget authorizes 1.25-percent raises for classified employees in July and additional 1.25-percent raises in January 2006, with universities required to fund the July raises from current resources. "They require the July raise, but they didn't fund it," the president said. Likewise, the universities are directed to fund raises for unclassified employees "in whatever amount we want, whenever we want," he said, with those raises coming entirely from the block grants.

He was critical, though, of the disparity between the treatment of the Regents universities and the treatment of the state's other institutions of higher education.

The budget fully funds the governor's recommendation for the vo-techs. Also, it gives a 9.5-percent increase in funding for the block grants that go to community colleges and a 5.2-percent increase in the funding for the block grant that goes to Washburn University, but it gives only a 4.3 percent increase in the block grants that go to the six Regents universities. Further, unlike the community colleges and Washburn, FHSU and the other Regents universities are required to self-fund a portion of the raises for their employees and contribute to the solution of the 27th pay period.

" In reality, the Regents universities were treated like state agencies instead of block grant recipients. While this compromise is acceptable, it isn't fair," he said. "The unfairness is represented by the way the Legislature treats university block grants compared to the way it treats the block grants for the community colleges and Washburn University. On the one had they're giving us money and on the other hand they're taking it away."

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