By Bill Robinson
A week after he asked employees to help administrators identify ways to reduce its $230 million budget by 10 percent, Eastern Kentucky University President Doug Whitlock admitted Thursday the cuts could not be achieved without a workforce reduction.
Although it did not mention involuntary layoffs, Whitlock’s latest statement seemed to imply that layoffs were inevitable. A hiring freeze had been in place since December 2011, according to past university statements
In June, after the University of Kentucky had laid off 140 employees, about 1 percent of its workforce, EKU leaders said they believed enough savings could be achieved through the hiring freeze.
Reducing staff by attrition, along with a 5-percent tuition increase and 3.5-percent hike in room and board charges, could make up an $8.3 million budget shortfall created by falling enrollment and state appropriations, EKU spokesperson Marc Whitt said.
At the June 2012 regents meeting, Whitlock took some pride is saying EKU had avoided layoffs while UK had not. About eight months later, however, EKU also had to deliver similar bad news, even if layoffs would not be immediate.
The admission that a workforce reduction was unavoidable if costs were to be cut by 10 percent came at the end of Whitlock’s seven point message to the university community Thursday.
He told employees he was committed to developing a “fair and humane” way to determine how staff reductions and other cost-savings would be accomplished.
A task force he has appointed will make final budget cutting recommendations and develop a process to reduce staff that also fosters EKU’s core mission, Whitlock said. Although, there were no pre-determined exemptions from budget cutting, he said there would be no across-the-board percentage cuts.
The president’s message emphasized the good news first, promising that some cost savings could be channeled into faculty and staff raises.
Next came an explanation of his appointments to the Strategic Budget Reallocation Task Force, which some had questioned, he said.
Members of the EKU cabinet and the deans were included because “they carry the budgetary responsibility for virtually every budget unit on campus” and are the people he looks to for most recommendations, Whitlock said.
While every dollar of identified savings does not need to be “freed up” by the time EKU adopts its 2013-14 budget, they do need to be identified and a commitment made, he said.
Decisions about future reallocation of funds will be influenced by the vision of the person selected to succeed him later this year, Whitlock said.