President Andrews thanked everyone for the opportunity to attend our meeting. He presented an overview of the current state budget as how it could potentially affect MSU’s budget situation. We have to prepare for a worst case scenario. We have been told we could have as much as a 12% budget cut which will amount to about 7.3 million dollars. The President’s cabinet has met several times concerning this and is looking at many different ways to alleviate the budget problem. We may have to reduce services in some areas but we must be very strategic in how we do this. We have to focus on our primary mission which is the students. We won’t know what the General Assembly is going to do until the latter part of March, after all the other parties involved finish their work.
Rep. Thacker asked about deferred maintenance, if that was still on the table. President Andrews replied that in the governor’s budget, the Capital Maintenance funds were restored. For us, that is about $800,000.
Rep. Colvin asked if there was any discussion at the CPE level about maintaining the 20/20 goals. President Andrews replied that he thought everyone on the CPE and all the leadership believed that those goals were absolutely right. The practical side is you have to look at where the money is, i.e. education does not seem to be a high priority in this budget. Our business plan called for us, this next biennium, to have a 7%, on average, increase in general fund appropriation and a 6-7% increase in tuition. We now know in this current budget we are going to have some cuts and we may have our tuition regulated to some level. We may not get the amount of money we were planning for so we will have to adjust the plan.
Rep. Adkins asked if it is not be the full 12% they decide to cut, have any other numbers been discussed with Dr. Andrews. President Andrews replied no. In talking with our legislators, it won’t be 12%, that number will be worked on.
L. Pace mentioned that in the last couple of years, the Board of Regents has been able to vote on tuition increases at the March meeting, which has been very helpful for current students to know what tuition will be before they leave and for our April and early June SOARs, so we can tell students and their families what to expect for Fall tuition costs. She asked if it was going to be possible to be voted on in March. President Andrews replied no, the CPE has taken the position that they will not consider tuition until April because they want to see what the final action will be of the General Assembly and the Governor. However, at the March Board of Regents meeting, they will take a position and offer some scenarios and get the Board’s endorsement so that once we know what the CPE comes down with, we can work with it. Vice President Patrick stated that we have done this in the past with the Board. President Andrews stated that last fall, only 49% of the student population had their tuition paid by either federal or state grants so the “sticker” price ($2,640.00) is paid by very few students. Big chunks of it are paid by grants, scholarships and/or student loans, which are very affordable. He stated we will try to keep tuition as low as possible but it will be a challenge. When asked about his potential bonus, President Andrews said if he collected it this year, he will give it back. He also asked that employees not participate in “in-fighting”, to try and quell any rumors they may hear about budget cuts, layoffs, etc.
Rep. Pace asked about his comments last week in Frankfort regarding the future of the Regional campus programs. Dr. Andrews stated that he was trying to convey the message that any cuts would also affect the students in our districts where our legislators worked. He reinforced that our regional campus centers would not be eliminated but as always, we will still look at how many courses are offered at the off-campus sites, whether or not the sections are full, etc. President Andrews said if MSU does take a 7 million dollar hit, there would be fewer people working at MSU. There is no way we can reduce the size of what we do by 7 million dollars and not affect the lives of people. Currently, all vacant positions have been frozen and we have strategically released a few positions. He has asked Vice Presidents to meet with people in their divisions to see who might be interested in retirement. He asked all employees to think about how they could be more important to the university than they already are.
Rep. McBride asked about eliminating free high school classes. This program was originally set up so that high school students could take one of these courses if there was a vacancy in the class. Dr. Andrews stated we don’t want to be adding sections if the reason is to make room for high school students because of the additional cost. He added we are looking at that in terms of impact. We may also look at what it costs to provide graduate and undergraduate waivers for children and spouses. Also, we may look at the tuition waivers for those earning multiple degrees when they do not have a direct bearing on the work the person does. Rep. Thacker asked if he was talking about dependents, not employees. Dr. Andrews stated yes, only looking at the tuition waiver for dependents.
Chair James asked about employee layoffs, if that was a possibility. Dr. Andrews replied that the only thing that has been done at this point is they have looked at the university policies. There has been no current discussion about layoffs by the President’s Cabinet. If we get to the point where we have to have a reduction in the workforce, then we will do the least we have to. However, talking about layoffs is premature and we will look at all the other possibilities first.
P. Gniot said the current health insurance contract goes through the year 2009 which means during the summer of 2009, bids will again be accepted for new health insurance which would take effect January, 2010. Dr. Andrews encouraged employees to try to live healthier lifestyles in order to keep health care costs down.
Rep. Crisp asked if the university was looking at early retirement incentives. Dr. Andrews said it has been discussed and he has asked M. Walters and P. Gniot to look at this possibility. We have to see if it can be statutorily done within the retirement system guidelines.
Dr. Andrews stated they are looking at the parking fee structure. He would like to designate some parking areas as priority parking lots for a premium price. He would like to see two parking garages built on campus over time. One could be built around the student housing area and the other on the opposite end of campus.
Chair James asked about the status of the Segal Study. Dr. Andrews said they had not talked about that specifically but what he would like to be able to do is to try to maintain the things that were set in motion that affected those among us who are the lowest paid employees. This is what the Segal Study captured, which would be approximately $200,000.
Rep. Thacker asked if the Career Ladders would still be honored. Dr. Andrews said those would try to be maintained. Vice President Patrick said those have always been treated as fixed costs in the past.
Dr. Andrews stated it would be helpful if all employees would turn off lights if they found them on or shut windows if they are found open. He urged all employees to try to help cut costs wherever they could.