• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Budget cuts could cost KCTCS jobs

Dr. Jay Box is in something of a box. The president of the Kentucky Community Technical College System (KCTCS) was in Frankfort twice in less than three weeks, both times politely but publicly lobbying for more support for his institution. On Wednesday, March 3, Box and other KCTCS officials joined House Democrats in the House chamber for a news conference in support of HB 626, a bill that would make KCTCS schools more affordable. Two weeks before, he presided over a rally in the Capitol rotunda aimed at lessening, if not eliminating, proposed cuts to KCTCS. Box has a dilemma. Ultimately, his boss is Gov. Matt Bevin, who has proposed cuts to KCTCS and many other portions of state government in order to begin to bail out underfunded state pension systems. Bevin has a say in the KCTCS Board of Regents. If Box bashes Bevin's budget too strenuously, he could be forced out of a job he took only last year. On the other hand, if something approaching Bevin's two-year proposal passes, KCTCS's budget will have been cut for the eighth and ninth years in a row. "I have not heard anything directly from the president of the Senate or the governor," Box said in response to a question about whether he'd been pressured to keep quiet. Scholarship Program HB 626 would create the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship Program and spend an estimated $33 million the next two years to provide free tuition at KCTCS schools for high school graduates, after factoring in scholarships and state and federal grants. Eligible students must have their high school diploma or GED before age 19, be eligible for in-state tuition, enroll at a KCTCS school immediately after high school, take at least 12 credit hours per semester and maintain a 2.0 grade point average. Box said HB 626, which has to emerge from the General Assembly and be signed by Bevin, doesn't offset the governor's proposed cuts. "What this does is help students be able to afford to go to college. It certainly isn't something that's going to necessarily offset the nine percent cut that the governor has proposed," Box said. "In addition, it's important to realize that the governor has also said, over and over again, that he wants a vision of helping the work force. And this bill does just that ." More KCTCS job losses? At the Feb. 18 KCTCS rally in the rotunda, Box introduced Bevin, who left after speaking for about 15 minutes. At the end of the rally, Box noted that the governor didn't mention the seven consecutive years of KCTCS cuts that occurred before Bevin took office. Last year's cuts, Box said, led to the elimination of 17 jobs at KCTCS headquarters in Versailles - with more possible this year. "Any cuts in state appropriations will mean reductions here at the system office. We look at all areas in our operating budget, and cut as much as we can in operational issues before we get into personnel, but eventually you have to get into personnel," Box said. "Since we (KCTCS headquarters) do not have tuition revenue to offset any losses, we have to find ways to make reductions here at the system office . and we'll just have to see what happens this year." Box said in spite of the "doom and gloom attitude going around," KCTCS officials were very upbeat. "We know that KCTCS does provide an opportunity for students to reach their dreams, and we're still dedicated to that, and committed to that, and we believe we'll be able to continue that in spite of cuts," Box said.

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