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The Northerner

Mearns unveils 2013-14 budget, renovation plans

Mac Payton, Staff writer

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Exactly a year after being announced as NKU’s fifth president on the same stage, President Geoffrey Mearns addressed the campus about the university’s budget on Wednesday in Greaves Concert 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 received $18 million less from the state than the average public university in Kentucky and the university operates 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. “There’s no rational explanation [for not receiving this money].”

One of his priorities is to negotiate with the legislature in order to fix this deficit in the operating funds NKU receives from the state. To do this Mearns is reaching out to three key groups: alumni, the business community and students.

He primarily wants to mobilize students to talk to their representatives in Frankfort.

“I want them to explain why students at Murray and Morehead get more taxpayer support than students at NKU,” he said. “And I want to hear them answer.”

In addition to this, Mearns addressed campus construction and renovations, budgetary issues with faculty and staff and tuition.

Construction and Renovations

Mearns officially announced what he called the “worst kept secret,” NKU is negotiating the purchase of Lakeside Terrace, previously a senior citizen living community, next to Callahan Hall.

Lakeside Terrace will be able to house 200 more residents. He expects the renovations to cost $12 million and said it should be ready to house residents by August 2014.

Mearns is calling the second phase of the plaza renovation “the single most important” construction job for the upcoming year.

The area of the plaza in between Steely Library, Founders Hall, Landrum Hall and the Fine Arts Center will be getting a $2.5 million renovation with more green space, much like the plaza outside of the University Center and the Student Union earlier this year.

 

Faculty and Staff

Mearns said the university has already hired 23 new full-time faculty members for the 2013-14 school year and is searching for 16 more.

For the 2014-15 school year, the university has already approved 20 new full-time faculty positions that can be filled.

However, it could soon become more difficult for the university to pay retired faculty members, according to Mearns.

The state government has changed its policy toward retired state employees, and is now turning to what he called a “hybrid plan,” where the state would cover part of it, but then would expect the institution to cover the rest, starting in 2014.

While this would have very little effect on the 2013-14 operating budget, this could cost upwards of $5 million in 2014-15 and in following years, according to Mearns.

Mearns also pledged $62,000 of next year’s budget to support researchers, when it comes to filling out grants and other paperwork.

As an added bonus, the budget 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.

 

Tuition

Sixty-five percent of the university’s revenue comes from tuition. Therefore, Mearns said, the university’s main efforts are to focus on the recruitment of new students and the retention of the students we have.

The university hired the consulting firm Royall & Company for help with recruiting more students. According to Mearns, this $500,000 investment has paid off.

Currently, Mearns said, we are looking at a 30 percent increase in the amount of freshmen for next year, with paid confirmation fees up 34 percent from this time last year.

Tuition prices will still be rising; however, Kentucky’s Council on Postsecondary Education will likely cap the tuition increases at three percent, despite SGA requesting a larger increase, according to Mearns.

Other Budgetary Expenses Around the University

The university’s budget will also be giving approximately $168,000 to the library, $42,000 of recurring funds to the Student Fee Allocation Board and $300,000 to the Athletics Department for NKU’s continued transition to Division I.

In the library, $100,000 will be going toward acquiring new materials, $60,000 toward refurbishing the library and $8,000 toward a pilot program next fall which will extend the library’s hours.

When speaking about the Athletics Department’s allocation, Mearns praised the sports teams, saying that they never gave up and they “give us a sense of inspiration.”

Mearns concluded his presentation by talking about NKU’s past and where we’re 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 there’s no reason we can’t achieve those dreams.

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

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
Mearns unveils 2013-14 budget, renovation plans