Board of Regents Approves FY21 Budget
The headline of this story originally stated there were no job losses associated with spending cuts at Murray State. Since the time of our reporting we've received reports from university staff of eliminated positions and have updated the story with information about nine job eliminations.
The Murray State University Board of Regents (BOR) approved a budget June 5 which does not result in job losses. Regent Leon Owens commended MSU President Bob Jackson and Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services Jackie Dudley and their staff for presenting what he called a “balanced budget” that protects both academic integrity and jobs.
“We’ve protected every job possible. It’s not been an easy process to do, saving jobs, but it’s been the case,” Jackson said. “We’re handling faculty positions very differently than we’ve ever handled them before at this institution. Not taking them out of the budget, not eliminating them, but pausing them and leaving them open and in the budget because again, we will get through this...we have to make sure we’re ready on the other side of this to grow and advance the institution as we need to.”
As part of Murray State University’s work to fill a nearly $8-million budget gap for the fiscal year that begins July 1st, the university is eliminating 54 full time equivalent positions. Eight of those positions were filled along with one part-time position. The remaining positions were vacant.
MSU Executive Director of Marketing and Communication Shawn Touney said cuts include a reduction in personnel in the English as a Second Language (ESL) program. He said the university will continue to assist international students at the necessary level through the program as it relates to current international student enrollment.
“Unfortunately, the global realities taking place at this time, primarily associated with the pandemic have significantly affected our international student enrollment and recruitment initiatives,” Touney said.
Touney also said the office of LGBT Programming Coordinator is a vacant position that is being “paused” due to difficulties with the budget. He said the position has not been permanently eliminated.
The Murray State University Board of Regents approved a budget June 5. Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services Jackie Dudley said the FY21 budget for education in general and auxiliaries is a $7.8 million decrease, or a 5% decrease, from the FY20 budget.
Touney said the FY21 budget represents a 9.6% decrease from two years ago. He said the university is currently assisting people whose positions were cut with “various resources.”
Jackson said the key to keeping the university moving forward is a focus on recruitment and retention because 71% of the university’s budget is enrollment-driven.
Dudley reported the overall FY21 budget for education in general and auxiliaries is $144.5 million, which is a $7.8 million decrease, or a 5% decrease, from the FY20 budget. She noted the university has a $2 million contingency fund which was preserved for the FY21 budget.
The FY21 budget plan continues the hiring freeze already in place, Dudley said, and elimination of overtime for the hourly employees. She said individual departments will be responsible for paying overtime to their employees out of their own budgets if they choose to allow it. She said travel is frozen for the moment due to coronavirus but will be closely scrutinized when it becomes possible again.
Dudley said while tuition and fees are the biggest revenue item for the university, salaries/wages and fringes are the biggest expenditure item.
“For this budget our education in general salaries and fringes represents 75% of the total,” she said. “That’s a significant amount. And even though 75% is a large amount, we decreased that in this budget by $7.3 million between salaries and fringes.”
Dudley said custodial and grounds employees were historically included in that budget; because those duties were outsourced beginning April 13, 2020 and that change affects the entire FY 21, resulting in a $2.3 million expenditure decrease.
All of the salaries are decreasing by $5.3 million and it’s a component of positions the university has eliminated as well as the custodial and grounds impact which resulted in 111 full-time employee eliminations, Dudley said. Overall there are nearly 170 fewer full-time employees on the FY21 budget than were on the FY20 budget; 111 from custodial and grounds, 54 that were primarily vacant positions.
“This was really a big crux of the budget,” she explained. “This is what we spent so much time on looking at vacant positions, should we fill them should we not fill them, how do we manage what we had with impacting as few employees as we could as far as existing employees.”
Regarding the current FY20 budget, Dudley said her staff is still predicting a $7 million shortfall but will have to add to that number a state appropriation reduction of $454,800. She said the university received the $3.2 million in CARES Act funding which will be allocated to cover dining and housing credits that had to be refunded to students when campus closed in March. She said the other $3.2 million flows through the university but may not be used by the university; it has to be passed along to students. And so far, she said the university has issued $1.2 million to students.
Dudley reported her staff has continued a number of measures that were already in place in an effort to address the projected shortfall for FY20 including hiring freezes, eliminating overtime where possible, scrutinizing travel and budget restrictions and reconsidering existing contracts and whether or not they are necessary or could be renegotiated.
The university will have to make a year-end payment into the Kentucky Employees Retirement System (KERS) but she doesn’t yet know what that number will be. She said the rate is currently frozen at 49.47% but “it continues to be a big concern for many years.”
In other business:
The BOR extended Jackson’s existing contract by one year. Jackson’s original four-year contract started in 2019, this now extends the president’s contract 2024. None of the BOR members opposed the renewal, but Regent Sharon Green and Regent Don Tharpe said they would have appreciated having the final evaluation and revised contract sooner than the evening before the meeting to consider before having to cast a vote. Tharpe said choosing and evaluating the university president is “the most important job” the BOR has and he believes they should’ve had more time to consider the matter before voting. Rhoads said former BOR Chair Dan Kemp conducted the evaluation and set the release based on how it’s been handled historically, but he was happy to release the information to board members earlier in the future if they wish. The contract revision, as explained by the board’s attorney, Robert L. Miller, changed the language regarding Jackson’s use of Oakhurst. He said because Jackson had a primary residence in Murray which predated his selection as university president, he only uses the property from time to time and the language change in the contract ensures there aren’t any “negative tax consequences” as a result. Jackson reported the university rolled out its ‘Racer Restart Initiative’ yesterday, which provides guidelines for reopening campus as the fall semester approaches. He said the 32-page document is the result of the dedication of nearly 200 people including faculty/staff, students and healthcare professionals.
Jackson said the Hudson School of Agriculture finalized the purchase of the 40-acre tract the BOR approved for acquisition. He said it “squares up the Hudson Farm” which was gifted by the Cindy Hudson family several years ago. They used private funds from the School of Agriculture to make the purchase. The acquisition is final.
The BOR held elections of officers for the upcoming fiscal year and selected Jerry P. Rhoads as chair; Eric Crigler as vice chair; Jill Hunt as secretary; Jackie Dudley as treasurer.
A number of faculty members were recognized for earning the Board of Regents Teaching Excellence Awards including: Amanda Grossman with Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business, Christina Grant with College of Education and Human Services, Carrie Jerrell with College of Humanities and Fine Arts, and Marc Polizzi with the College of Humanities and Fine Arts.
Regent Melony Shemberger said in response to the need for more online education, about 70 faculty will begin a course design challenge next week. For the next five weeks they’re going to learn how to put together one module for a fall semester course, which would be enough material to cover one or two weeks of a course. She said they will learn best practice which will stem from education science.
Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Don Robertson reported fall 2020 registration indicates an increase in headcount but minor decrease in credit hours; the undergrad headcount is less than 3% down but the graduate headcount is up by 22%. He said the reports indicate there are also more incoming freshman this semester in comparison with fall 2019. The real soft spot, he said, is international students; as of right now they’re only down 16% in international enrollment but they’re projecting 25%. He noted there’s plenty of interest in international students wishing to attend but the embassies aren’t open at this point to review or issue student visas.
The BOR approved an adjustment to the admissions process--incoming students with a high school GPA of 3.0-4.0 no longer have to meet the ACT/SAT minimum score requirement for admission. They will still have to submit a score from one of the standardized tests for class placement. Jackson said he and a few other regents traveled to schools in the region last year and learned there were several who made good grades and had the grit and desire to complete college, who simply couldn’t afford the test prep courses or afford to take the test more than once--so those students who scored a 16 or 17 on the ACT (instead of the minimum 18) were going to other colleges and graduating. Any at-risk students will be paired with an academic advisor as well as a success coach.
Provost Todd announced the university is at an all-time high for online courses this summer and there’s currently an initiative to offer not only more online courses, but also online programs. He said they will unveil that as more details become available. As part of the update, he also announced Academic Affairs recommended transferring Dean Ashley Ireland to the Provost Office as Interim Assistant Provost and Director of Online Programs in line with her participation as project lead in the initiatives.
Dr. Dina Byers was officially named Dean of the School of Nursing and Health Professionals after serving for the last year as interim dean.
Sydni Anderson contributed to this article.