Proposed budget gives university $61 million

Northern Kentucky University will see a dramatic increase in funding, buildings and bonds if the newest version of the 2007-2008 state budget makes its way through the legislature and is signed into law by Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

Included in the tentative budget is $35.5 million for building the Center for Informatics, a new residence hall, and an expansion to Norse Commons. The budget issues bonds for the second phase of construction to the Student Union and a new parking garage adjacent to the Bank of Kentucky Center. It also includes road improvement/expansion funds for John’s Hill Road and the construction of a connector road from Three Mile Road to the AA Highway. General university funding increases of $1.4 million in 2007 and $5.7 million in 2008 is also included in the more than $61 million allotment for NKU.

“In terms of dollars and new commitments, this is the largest budget for education since 1990. It is a historic measure,” said a spokesman for Speaker of the House Jody Richards. Kentucky teachers will also see salary increases if the budget passes. “For the first time, a plan is in place to raise the salary of Kentucky teachers to the level of the 11 surrounding states,” Richards’ spokesman added. Richards and President of the Senate John Williams lead the conference committee that finalized the version of the budget March 31. Fort Thomas, Ky., Sen. and President pro tempore Katie Kratz Stine also served on the committee.

President James Votruba said, “I am very pleased and optimistic with the support of the legislature, the Northern Kentucky caucus and the leaders of both the House and the Senate. This is a good budget, a strong budget.”

The final version of the bill formed by conference committee has some instrumental Northern Kentucky support. In the House, Dennis Keane “was a key leader in getting the informatics building into the budget,” Votruba said. In the Senate, Katie Kratz Stine “was instrumental in keeping it [Center for Informatics] in the budget,” he also said.

Representative Keene said he was, “Very happy the House was able to restore full funding for the Center for informatics.”

The new version of the budget is the third draft, costing almost $18 billion, and is a collaborative effort of the leaders in the House and Senate. The budget is still not official and must now be approved through both the House and the Senate. From there, it will go to the governor for final approval.

The budget is not clear of obstacles yet. Final negotiations for community projects are continuing and some issues still exist over the state’s overall credit rating after issuing so many bonds. Keene said, “I am concerned about the state’s bond rating. You have to be fiscally responsible.” The budget also accesses some of the state’s rainy day funds, but an exact number has not been released to the public yet. Votruba remains optimistic, saying, “The funding is in the proposed budget and likely to stay in the final budget.” Final word will come in the near future; the legislature is scheduled to vote April 10.