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WKCTC board OKs budget, gets arts school update

BY KATHLEEN FOX kfox@paducahsun.com

The West Kentucky Community & Technical College board of directors approved next year's budget, which includes several fee increases for students.

The board accepted the proposed budget Tuesday afternoon in Carson Hall. Susan Graves, WKCTC vice president of business affairs, said the budget - which assumed a flat enrollment for the upcoming school year - will include a 2 percent tuition increase from $144 to $147 per credit hour, a decline from past years of about 3 percent annual increases.

She said the budget also features an increase from $4 to $8 per credit hour for Build Smart funds, which go toward $7.5 million in agency bonds for the final phase of the Paducah School of Art and Design Lower Town campus. The change in fees is the same in all of the 16 Kentucky Community and Technical College (KCTCS) schools and will not increase in subsequent years.

President Barbara Veazey said the college has an $800,000 shortfall from the previous fiscal year. The number includes $150,000 from the 1.5 percent reduction in higher education from the legislature, $450,000 in tuition shortfall from decreased enrollment of nearly 4 percent from 4,439 in spring 2013 to 4,270 this spring and an estimated $200,000 for a 1 percent salary increase for all faculty and staff members.

The decline in enrollment from 2013 to this year is seen in nearly all the KCTCS sites. Veazey said for WKCTC, the decrease hinges on a smaller number of older students enrolling and a decline in the area's population.

She said to compensate for the $800,000, the college shifted grant funding, realigned open or retiring positions, and temporarily suspended the respiratory program for further evaluation of the curriculum. Veazey said the decision was affected by the low job placement and licensure exam rates for students in the program.

"We are taking prudent steps but are not making any cuts that would endanger the quality of the college and the services it provides students," she said. "It's about increasing enrollment and increasing revenues."

Veazey said the college is in the final stages of its fundraising campaign with $1.9 million of the $2.5 million raised for phase 3 of renovations to the Kitchens Inc. building in Lower Town. She said the school hopes to finish fundraising by July 1.

The project will cost $10 million with 25 percent or $2.5 million matched from the local community. This year's Kentucky legislature budget bill guaranteed funding for capital projects at 16 schools in the KCTCS system, and WKCTC will benefit from $7.5 million in agency bonds.

WKCTC added an element to the renovation plan, a student cafe also open to the public in the back portion of the facility. The new restaurant and outdoor seating area would also cater receptions and events held in the gallery area and hold culinary classes. She said the $2 million plan is included in the original $10 million and would add tourism revenue for the school and the community.

Veazey said the addition of the cafe will push back the completion slightly. The college now expects to award construction bids in October and for the entire project to be finished by January 2016. The original date was fall 2015.

The final phase of the new campus includes the renovation of the 30,000-square foot Kitchens Inc. building at 905 Harrison St., which will house two-dimensional art programs. The sculpture building, adjacent to Madison Hall, is still set to open this fall.

Veazey also announced that the college closed on a building on Marine Way in Paducah last week that will be home to the marine technology and logistics departments. The complex's location, close to the water, is tailored to those currently working in the industry, she said.

WKCTC will be able to renovate the structure, with classrooms, offices and training materials, as part of a $2.7 million grant received in fall 2013 from the Department of Labor to expand workforce training programs in the transportation, distribution and logistics career sectors. The renovations are in the early stages and then will be sent to the Department of Labor for approval, according to Veazey.

Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.

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