House passes bill with $23 million for Kentucky State
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky House voted Thursday to shore up Kentucky State University’s finances with a $23 million appropriation coupled with strict oversight measures for the struggling school.
The bill, which cleared the House on an 82-7 vote, heads to the Senate next in what could be a crucial few weeks ahead for the historically Black college based in Frankfort.
Democratic Rep. Derrick Graham, a KSU graduate, said the legislation could have a long-lasting, positive impact on the university.
“This will not be an easy journey to take,” Graham said during the House debate. “But if it can lead to better days, and I believe it can, then hopefully we can look at this legislation as worth the sacrifice and as a beginning to a new era for the university.”
KSU announced last summer that it faced a budget shortfall with a stack of unpaid bills and other debts, a ballooning payroll and several years of poorly managed spending that outpaced revenue.
Gov. Andy Beshear placed the university under state oversight following the sudden resignation of the school’s president last summer. The school is searching for a permanent president.
Along with the immediate $23 million infusion into Kentucky State, the legislation includes safeguards to monitor efforts to restore the school to financial stability, the bill’s supporters said.
“The legislation does set accountability, responsibility and transparency that deals with our institution here in our capital city,” said Republican Rep. James Tipton, the bill’s lead sponsor.
The appropriation would be set up as a loan that could be forgiven by the legislature, he said.
Aaron Thompson, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, told lawmakers this week that financial oversight of KSU will delve into the “microscopic level.”
The postsecondary education council already has played an important role in helping campus leaders put the school “back on the right course,” Graham said.
The bill’s oversight provisions include carrying out a management improvement plan for KSU.
Under the bill, KSU leaders would provide periodic updates to lawmakers in coming years on the progress of carrying out that improvement plan. And by late 2025, the postsecondary education council would provide lawmakers a three-year performance analysis of KSU.
Tipton on Thursday pointed to the precariousness of KSU’s finances. He said he was told the school can draw upon a line of credit, but it’s anticipated those funds would be exhausted by mid-April.
The school also is looking for ways to cut about $7 million from its budget for the next fiscal year.
Kentucky State’s supporters have pointed to positive trends on the campus, including rising student retention and graduation rates. They urged lawmakers to think about the school’s current and future students when deciding on the appropriation.
Graham said the students now at Kentucky State “want what was given to me and to others before me” on campus: “a brighter future.”
The legislation is House Bill 250.