By Kyeland Jackson —
On the heels of a departmental survey preparing for budget cuts, Governor Matt Bevin Thursday ordered an immediate 4.5 percent cut to higher education. By Friday afternoon Attorney General Andy Beshear declared that cut illegal.
The governor’s executive order means $6.5 million must be cut from the university within the next two months. The university responded to the cuts through an online statement.
“In response to the Governor’s Executive Order, UofL understands the critical issue facing the General Assembly is to implement a plan that resolves the pension shortfall. UofL will respond to the gubernatorial directive of a 4.5% reduction in the 4th quarter, as we have responded to the 14 budget cuts over the past decade, by working with our faculty and staff to pursue plans that minimize the burden on our students. Our employees are disappointed with this news, but we will work to galvanize support for developing new fund sources that assure our faculty, students and staff have the resources to achieve our strategic goals.”
Departments have been preparing for cuts via a survey sent to department chairs. In the survey, chairs were asked what to do in the case of a five, 10, and 15 percent cut. Dean of Arts and Sciences ,Kimberly Kempf-Leonard, said those numbers represent cuts from the state level and not necessarily for the university.
“They are an exercise for us to think about options, including what I hope would be the worst case scenario,” Kempf-Leonard said.
The scenarios propose budgeting from every department, leaving decisions on where to get the money up to each chair.
“My goal is to minimize any impact on our instructional mission. We aren’t even thinking about fewer classes, or any cuts to advising, or student support services like the writing center,” Kempf-Leonard said.
“It will likely affect our enrichment opportunities outside the classroom, our administrative staff, and our operating budgets to cover equipment, supplies, and travel.”
If the cuts are passed, this would mean cuts towards study abroad awards and programs. The College of Arts and Sciences is the largest at U of L, constituting humanities, natural sciences and social sciences. Kempf-Leonard said the department can mitigate some of the cuts in other ways.
Bevin proposed the cuts to higher education as part of the state budget shortly after being sworn in as governor. He proposed cutting 4.5 percent this fiscal year and nine percent the next, but President James Ramsey and others have opposed them. Ramsey said he was “disappointed” by the cuts, and has since voiced his concerns to the house and senate. Other higher education officials joined Ramsey, including University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto who called Bevin’s cuts “draconian.”
Kentucky’s house of representatives and republican-controlled senate have contested the budget, failing to compromise by the April 1 deadline. With the attorney general declaring the cuts invalid, the future of the leaner university budgets remains uncertain until the ultimate deadline April 15.
Andy Beshear has given Bevin a week to reconsider the cuts, promising legal action if the order is not repealed.