Thursday, June 28, 2012

Schools told to prioritize budget requests

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

The Kansas Board of Regents recently asked regents schools to come back with their specific funding requests.

But board members got more than they bargained for. So, the regents told the schools to prioritize their projects knowing that some of the initiatives won’t make the final budget cut that is sent to Gov. Sam Brownback for consideration later this year.

“We cant send over $160 million (in proposed projects) and be credible,” said Regent Fred Logan of Prairie Village. “We need to shape the package to give ourselves the best chance of success. My main concern is coming up with a systemwide proposal that doesn’t get us laughed out of the building,” he said.

Board members will conduct a budget workshop July 17.

Kansas University has included two big ticket items in its request.

One is $30 million in state funds to help build a new $75 million medical education building at the School of Medicine in Kansas City, Kan.

The other is a recurring annual appropriation of $2.5 million to support a Kansas Institute for Translational Chemical Biology, which would be aimed at bolstering KU’s drug discovery efforts.

During a discussion at the regents meeting last week, Chairman Ed McKechnie of Arcadia said, “I feel strongly about the medical education building.” He said that proposal fits the strategic plan of both the school and the state to increase the number of physicians in Kansas and bring in more research dollars.

According to KU, the current medical education building, which opened in 1976, is small, outdated and doesn’t meet standards required by the school’s accrediting body. Its classrooms are designed for lectures rather than modern small-group learning.

The Kansas Institute for Translational Chemical Biology will support both the KU Cancer Center and the school’s continuing membership in the Association of American Universities, school officials say.

Both budget proposals are extremely important, said KU Vice Chancellor of Public Affairs Tim Caboni.

“We went through a list of up to 100 of those,” Caboni said. He said the ones KU submitted to the regents “really are the priorities,” and he wouldn’t want to rank them in a particular order.

KU has also said it will need additional state funding to improve the KU Medical Center, including the School of Medicine in Wichita, but officials haven’t put a dollar figure on that yet.

Regent Kenny Wilk of Lansing said the requests from all of the schools must include information on what the schools have done with recent budget enhancements. “A strong business case,” must be made with every request, he said.

In the past, Brownback has shown he favors funding requests that are for specific purposes aimed at enhancing strengths at the schools.

Other big-ticket funding requests before the regents include:

• $16 million in additional funding for technical colleges.

• $15 million for expansion of the Kansas Technology Center at Pittsburg State University.

• $5 million annual appropriation to expand agricultural research at Kansas State University.

• $5 million annual appropriation to improve the College of Architecture, Planning and Design at KSU.

• $5 million annual appropriation for a research synergy center at KSU.

• $8 million for community colleges.

• $5.25 million funding increase for the College of Health Professions at Wichita State.