Mearns addresses campus community about next year’s budget

Exactly a year after being named NKU’s fifth president on the same stage, President Geoffrey Mearns addressed the campus about the university’s budget on Wednesday in Greaves Hall.

“We are in a safe and stable financial position,” Mearns said, despite NKU not receiving what he believes is its fair share from the state. According to Mearns, NKU receives $18 million less from the state than the average public university in Kentucky, and that we operate on less state dollars per student now than we have in the past.

Mearns then said that people are in Frankfort, lobbying for NKU to get the money it deserves. “We did not create this problem,” he said.

His priorities from the state are fixing the operating funds deficit, so that NKU gets the money he believes it deserves, a new Health Innovations Center, and that the state returns to covering pensions.

For Mearns, “the single most important” renovation of next year will be the second phase of the renovation of the plaza outside of Steely Library, Founders Hall, Landrum Hall and the Fine Arts Building.

“It will be a visible investment that we all can enjoy,” Mearns said.

Mearns also announced that agency bonds were approved for purchasing Lakeside Terrace, the assisted living facility next to Callahan Hall that will be renovated to house 200 more residents. Mearns predicted a budget of $12 million for renovations of the facility and is expected to be ready in August 2014.

In addition, Mearns said that the 2013-14 operating budget will include costs to hire more full-time faculty, deferred maintenance projects, and more money to the library, to cover costs of acquiring new materials and to refurnish the library, so that it feels more inviting to students.

The budget also allows for $1.6 million in recurring funds to be used for discretionary expenditures, according to Mearns. With $1.5 million of that, Mearns is setting up a pool for faculty to receive a 1.5 percent merit-based salary increase.

 Mearns concluded his presentation talking about NKU’s past and where the university is going in the future. He said that, although we do have budget restraints, there’s no reason we can’t dream big dreams, and that we can’t achieve those dreams.

“It’s our time,” he said, “so let’s go to work.”

For full coverage of Mearns’ budget address, check out The Northerner tomorrow morning.