Letters to campus

February 2013

Well, it looks like we may have successfully navigated through the winter storm season once again in the Little Apple. While the snowfall makes it a challenge to move around in safely, the State of Kansas desperately needs the water – so at the end of the day all of this snow is a good thing! 

Springtime in Kansas brings showers, flowers, and most importantly the meeting of the Kansas Legislature. I have been asked on several occasions about the higher education budget in Kansas, and no discussion of our budget can really be had without considering the budgetary process with both the Kansas Board of Regents and the Kansas Legislature. In this month’s letter I will describe the process we use to develop our annual university budget and explain how we go about securing state resources for Kansas State University. 

So, what drives budget decisions at Kansas State? One of the key reasons for spending so much time on the development of K-State 2025 is that an effective strategic plan is essential to guide budgetary decisions. The seven thematic goals and eight common elements all represent areas necessary to achieve our Top 50 goal, and as such will require additional financial resources. However, within the K-State 2025 plan we cannot fund all of the identified needs in a single year and thus must prioritize in which areas to spend available funds. The senior leadership team, in consultation with university governance groups, makes the final decisions annually on priorities to build into the budget. 

The process to build our budget starts each summer when each higher educational institution makes a formal presentation to the Kansas Board of Regents on additional funding needs. Typically these would represent projects that are above and beyond requests for across-the-board general fund increases. As an example, this past year we presented three major new projects for possible inclusion into the 2014 fiscal year budget. This included enhancement funds for the College of Architecture, Planning, and Design; enhancement funds for the College of Agriculture; and funding for a life sciences interdisciplinary research building. 

Following the budget presentations by all of the state higher education institutions, (including requests from Emporia State, Fort Hays State, Kansas State, Pittsburg State, University of Kansas, Wichita State, the community colleges, and the technical schools) the Board of Regents formulates a system-wide budget request. This entire budget proposal is then sent to the governor for possible inclusion in his budget proposal to the Kansas Legislature. During this past year, the Kansas regents elected to move forward our College of Architecture, Planning, and Design enhancement request ($5 million per year base budget increase), but did not include any of our other K-State requests. They also requested an increase to our general fund budget that would fund faculty and staff salary increases. 

In the past several decades, the high water mark for higher education funding in Kansas has been the governor's budget recommendation to the legislature. Thus, inclusion in the governor’s budget proposal is absolutely critical to ultimately receiving the needed funds. As you can imagine, during this time (typically November and December) there can be significant discussions held between the governor's office, the Kansas Board of Regents, and university leadership on what will be included and what might be left out. 

The governor releases his budget following the annual State of the State address, at which time higher education in Kansas finds out what funding requests have been included in his budget recommendations. For this past year, the enhancement funds for the College of Architecture, Planning, and Design were included at a budgeted level of $1.0 million for FY14 and $1.5 million for FY 15. Once an item is included in the governor’s budget proposal, we then move to discussing our proposed new initiative with the Kansas Legislature. 

During the first few weeks of the session, I had the opportunity to testify in front of education committees for both the House and Senate. Dr. Sue Peterson, director of governmental relations for Kansas State, plays a key role in developing an effective message for our legislators. During testimony, I had the opportunity to advocate for higher education and argue for inclusion of new funding opportunities for Kansas State in the final budget. My testimony (pdf) discusses university achievements and points-of-pride from the previous year, a discussion about the importance of our land grant mission to the overall economic health of Kansas, provides support for the governor's budget recommendations for Kansas State, and concludes with a brief discussion of financial challenges faced by K-State. 

Each of the various committees can change or modify the budget recommendations before they are incorporated into a final budget approved by the entire legislature sometime at the end of the session in May. As you can imagine, a great deal of discussion, amendments, and suggestions arise from budget discussions in the Kansas Legislature. Sometimes these discussions result in procedural changes that can significantly affect ways in which the final budget is crafted. As an example, for the current legislative session both the Kansas House and Kansas Senate passed a provision called “paygo” which essentially means that if any member increases funding for a particular program, they must also identify a funding source for that increase. This makes it difficult in a lean revenue year to add significant funding to any particular program and forces the legislature to carefully consider how to pay for all new initiatives. 

At the same time the legislature is working on a final Kansas budget, the university is working on assembling a proposal for the Kansas Board of Regents on projected tuition and fee rates for the upcoming year. A committee of student leaders, along with other university representatives, drafts a proposal of tuition increases that is then submitted to the university president for final consideration. The Kansas Board of Regents considers all university tuition and fee proposals at the May meeting, with a formal vote taken a month later at the June meeting. Thus, we submit our tuition and fees proposals prior to knowing the details of our general fund budget request from the Kansas Legislature. 

While this may seem overly complex and cumbersome, at the end of the day it generally works out well. As you read the newspaper over the next several months and hear about various ideas coming from the legislature, I wanted everyone to be aware of the way in which we receive monies annually to move K-State forward. We are blessed to have many K-State alumni and friends serving in the Kansas Legislature who are doing all they can to help provide us the resources needed to continue to grow and thrive. 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at any time. 

Go Cats!

Kirk