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Budget Cuts Soon to Impact Higher Education

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Bowling Green, KY (WNKY-TV) "This would be a more significant cut," says Chris Cumens, VP Finance Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College. On Friday, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin ordered that all higher education facilities have their fourth quarter funding cut by 4.5%. 

The reason for the cuts, Governor Bevin says, “our pension system is on the brink of insolvency. We have more than $35 billion in pension obligations."

While Governor Bevin has signed the order, there is no official word putting the cuts in place, but local universities are preparing regardless. 

Dr. Gary Ransdell, President of Western Kentucky University says, "we will likely have to tap some of our reserve funds to manage a $3.5 million reduction at this late date in the fiscal year." 

For Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College they are tapping their reserves too.

"The 16 colleges have already been approved to utilize emergency funds to cover the 4.5% if that cut were to transpire," says Cumens.

This emergency funding is typically built up and saved for catastrophic events not for budget cuts.

"Some type of fire, natural disaster, something we haven't budgeted for," says Cumens.

This funding allows SKYCTC to keep tuition and staff the same if the cuts do come through, but it still hits their pocket books hard.

Cumens says, "roughly about $250,000."

Cumens tell us higher education has seen these types of cuts over the past 7-8 years, but nothing this major. Governor Matt Bevin also proposed cutting the education funding by 9% for the 2016-2018 budget, which starts July 1st for higher education, leaving college officials to plan for further dollars lost.

"there could be a situation where tuition would increase," says Cumens.

Governor Bevin continued his reasoning by stating, “once we get our fiscal house in order, Kentucky will be in a much stronger position to make additional investments in higher education.”

Attorney General Andy Beshear said Friday, “the Governor’s unilateral action in cutting the appropriated funding of colleges, universities and community colleges was outside of his authority. The law on budget reductions is straightforward. It requires a declared shortfall that does not exist. If it did, the last budget bill that was passed and signed into law dictates the steps that must be taken. We are therefore requesting the Governor withdraw his order. We are confident he will comply.” 

Members of the House and Senate have until April 12th to reach a budget agreement, otherwise Governor Bevin would have to sign a special legislative session to keep the majority of the state government running. WKU President Ransdell tells us they have received their 4th quarter allotment, but is $3,359,200 less than what they would normally receive. 

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