A final budget update

July 12, 2013

This week, I'm returning to my least favorite newsletter topic: the state budget. Although I would rather write about happier topics, I want to update all of you on what's happened since my last newsletter on the subject.

As you know, the state's final budget contained cuts to KU Medical Center totaling $4.2 million for fiscal year 2014 (which started July 1), followed by $4 million in fiscal year 2015. I said in June that we will not impose across-the-board cuts, and we have not. In determining how to meet the extreme financial challenges we now face, we have acted thoughtfully and strategically in determining what to eliminate while maintaining our No. 1 mission, which is to educate doctors, nurses and other health professionals for the state of Kansas.

While we did not make a single across-the-board cut, we have made painful cuts in almost every area. Even before the final budget negotiations began, we asked all department chairs, center and institute directors in the School of Medicine to plan for a 3 percent reduction. 

As a result of the budget cuts, we also raised tuition more than we had hoped to. Before the final budget passed, the students, faculty and staff who served on our New Tuition and Fees Committee had approved an increase in tuition of 3 percent plus fees, with a goal of keeping tuition low while enhancing academic opportunities. In light of state budget cuts, we asked the regents to approve an increase in tuition of 5 percent plus fees.

Even though education is our No. 1 mission, unfortunately some educational programs will suffer as well. Cuts to academic programs in Kansas City will result in:

 - 20 fewer nursing students - specifically, graduate and advanced practice students

 - 5 fewer health professions students

 - 4 fewer residency (GME) positions

 - 2 fewer positions for students enrolled in our M.D./Ph.D. program.

While we will not reduce our recently expanded medical student class size, we have reduced the overall budgets for our Wichita and Salina campuses. Dean Garold Minns in Wichita and Director William Cathcart-Rake in Salina are now in the process of figuring out how to absorb those cuts in ways that will not affect medical student enrollment.

We have also closed the Garden City office of our Area Health Education Center (AHEC), and consolidated its operations with the AHEC office in Hays. Through the Hays, Pittsburg and Kansas City AHECs, we will continue providing the same level of regional service, promoting careers in health care, providing continuing education for health care professionals, sponsoring community education and health screenings, facilitating research and developing clinical opportunities for students.

In addition, we have made cuts in various operational areas. The most significant of these is in Facilities, where we have closed the Jayhawk Construction unit. This unit, which employed 38 people, provided construction and maintenance-related services in buildings on the Kansas City campus. Eleven of those employees have been reassigned within the Facilities department, but 27 have been laid off. Additionally, Printing Services will be closing within the next several months, and four people in that operation will be laid off. Steffani Webb is working with managers to ensure a smooth transition of the campus printing needs to outside vendors and will be communicating more about that in the future.

These have been extremely difficult decisions, and we regret the loss of jobs. I'm also painfully aware that our employees have not had raises in six of the last seven years. While we seek to attract and retain the best employees and faculty, that becomes increasingly difficult when we must also ask them to go for years without salary increases.

Although our state budget is now set for the next two fiscal years, we have learned lessons from the recent legislative session. As I've said previously, we will work hard to ensure that policymakers know Kansas cannot have a healthy economy - much less a healthy population - if the state keeps cutting the budget of the schools that train its health care providers.

As we prepare to welcome new classes of medical, nursing and health professions students to our campuses in the next two months, I'm grateful to all of you for your ongoing dedication to our No. 1 mission. As Executive Vice Chancellor, every day I see so many examples that KU Medical Center, on all of its campuses and initiatives throughout the state, remains committed to educating future health care leaders, and improving health and health care for all. Thank you.

Last modified: Jul 12, 2013