EKU approves budget pending pension legislation

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Eastern Kentucky University students walk through campus. On Tuesday, the Board of Regents approved the budget, but university officials warn the budget is subject to change with adjustments depending on the outcome of pending pension litigation.

The Eastern Kentucky University Board of Regents approved the operating budget for 2019-2020, which Barry Poynter, the university's finance treasurer, said is "an expression of priority to the university."

If that's the case, EKU's priority in the total $351,343,791 budget would appear to be educational efforts, which consumes $230.6 million of the expenditures.

Following that, Poynter discussed the auxiliary finances that help supplement and support the university with a total of $28.5 million.

The "third bucket of the budget," as Poynter referred to it, are restricted funds, which totaled more than what was allocated for the auxiliary finances at $92.3 million. That bucket consists of government grants and activity sponsored programs.

"Although that is reduced from prior years, that is still an opportunity for investment and growth included in this proposed budget," Poynter said.

After announcing the budget, Poynter, Jerry Pogatshnik, interim executive vice president for academic affairs provost, and David McFaddin, senior vice president of operations and strategic initiatives, gave updates regarding university projects.

Poynter said that with the introduction of the Asset Preservation Fee in 2018, $1 million would go toward improvements to classrooms, "face lifts" to university infrastructure, as well as technological updates and advances. He noted that EKU will be renovating two floors in Commonwealth Hall, with goals to potentially include academic programs inside along with IT.

"Although it is a slightly reduced budget, it's still investing in things that matter with the university," he said.

McFaddin told the board the budget is subject to change with adjustments depending on the outcome of pending pension litigation.

Pogatshnik spoke about academic affairs investments to better meet the demands of the students through more accommodating programs, investing in online programs and classroom improvements.

"We have tried to make a conscious effort this year to hold the line on some expenditures so that we can plow that back for improving our student experience," he said. "I want to pass along my thanks to the deans and the chairs for being good fiscal stewards of our funds that are allowing us to go beyond what we originally envisioned for our classroom preparations."

McFaddin reported that the upcoming recreation center to be completed in the fall is on schedule with the original completion date. He noted it was a great asset to the students and community and will serve the greater campus and community at large.

He informed the regents of the major renovations to take place in Telford Hall, which is currently shut down after last semester.

McFaddin said that the Telford renovations were for "wastewater updates and other issues" and that the project was "significantly under budget," giving the board breathing room in the auxiliary funds.

• • •

• Gene Palka, the vice president of student success at EKU, reported a new record of students admitted to the university in 2018-2019 at 8,155 students. As of June 1 2019, the freshman retention rate for EKU had risen 0.5% higher than last year to 73.7% in 2018-2019. "We are really excited about the continued trajectory to reach our retention rate goal of 75%," Palka said.

• The Board of Regents approved the addition of four new certificate programs, five program revisions and two program suspensions for a master's in occupational therapy and the bachelor program for occupational science post-baccalaureate second degree pathway. Sherry Robinson, the university's vice provost, said the two suspensions were in no way related to budget cuts, but simply a mandated accreditation by the Occupational Therapy Council.

• Lana Carnes, a professor of management, marketing and international business, was approved for the awarded status of faculty emeritus.

Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter @TaylorSixRR.

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