Tuesday, January 28, 2003

NKU freezes hiring

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS - Calling the statewide budget situation in the commonwealth "critical," Northern Kentucky University's president announced a staff hiring freeze on Monday.

"Immediate action is required if we are to manage reductions while continuing to invest in our strategic priorities," President James Votruba said in an e-mail addressed to the campus community. "While we recognize that many departmental operating budgets are under funded, it is imperative that budget managers limit discretionary spending to those activities directly supporting our core mission."

Until the state makes clearer how deeply it plans to cut higher education, the university will institute these measures:

Staff hiring will be frozen. According to the memo, all requests to fill vacant staff positions must be reviewed and approved at the vice presidential level and the financial planning office.

A moratorium is being placed on all personal services contracts. Only legal mandates will be addressed.

Out-of-state travel will be restricted. Vice presidents must approve requests, and the president must review all international travel.

No office furnishings or equipment will be ordered with the exception of ongoing construction projects. Instructional equipment already planned for purchase may be bought with existing funds.

Construction projects, with the exception of those previously funded, will cease. Only projects paid for by private gifts will move into the design phase.

Because of NKU's increased growth, faculty positions will not be cut, Dr. Votruba said.

The school employs about 1,400 people. About 700 or 750 of those are classified as staff, according to Jeff Chesnut, president of NKU's Staff Congress.

This announcement comes a week after the school's financial officials said NKU might have to raise tuition 18 percent and turn students away if state lawmakers cannot find a new source of revenue to fill a $500 million hole in Kentucky's two-year budget.

The university braced for a 2 percent cut to its $109.2 million annual budget - about 42 percent of which comes from the state - by putting $654,000 in reserves. But estimates from Frankfort on cuts have been as high as 10 percent, which would mean about a $4 million hit.

University spokesman Chris Cole said it's too early to estimate how much of an impact the hiring freeze and moratorium on construction projects would have in filling the gap in state funding reductions.

E-mail kgoetz@enquirer.com

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