August 4, 2020
The JCEP Questions: Is _______ A Budget Reduction Possibility?
There were a few questions submitted to JCEP that fit the general category of “Is ______ a budget reduction possibility?” Two specific questions centered on whether possible budget-reduction solutions could include, for example, reducing departmental Extension operating dollars and/or instituting shared services for business operations.
I will start to answer this the way I like to answer questions, with a story. I remember one time when the general manager of the large national feed company I worked for was asked if our company was up for sale. The general manager said something I will always remember. “While a sale is not imminent, as a business, we are always up for sale. There is nothing we can do about that decision. It is not ours to make. Our best strategy is to do the best job we can do. The better we are at that, the more secure our jobs become. If the business is sold and you are great at what you do, there is a greater probability that you will be retained. If we are sold and you are not retained but you are doing a great job, other employers will be interested in you. Opportunities will always exist for people who make a point to work hard and are good at what they do.”
Now, K-State Research and Extension cannot be sold, but anything we do can be affected or eliminated in a budget reduction plan. Some things, such as the permanent layoff of tenured faculty positions, require the university and our Kansas Board of Regents to declare a financial exigency. A university declaring financial exigency is extremely rare. Other things, like programmatic realignment or dissolution, require consultation with either the Department, College, or Extension Committee on Planning (EXCOP). Other things are left up to discretion of the administrative leader of the department, unit, or center. Nevertheless, the decision makers making these decisions often seek the counsel of a formal (like JCEP and EXCOP) or informal advisory group (like my agent and specialist advisory teams). In fact, I challenge you to find a professional sector that affords its employees more opportunity to provide input and feedback into decisions than the university sector. Feel free to let me know if you find one.
Are departmental Extension operating dollars a possible solution to a budget reduction? The answer is yes. In the past, however, that decision has usually been made after a consultation has occurred between the department, center or unit head and K-State Research and Extension leadership.
Are shared service models a possibility? Yes, but they will only be considered after thoughtful consideration to their feasibility.
Are there other budget reduction possibilities? The answer remains the same.
Just as financial exigency is extremely rare, so are global pandemics. We are all in uncharted territory in our personal lives and careers. And while fear of not being able to provide for your family and future is understandable, EVERYONE has some measure of that fear right now. We fear what we can’t control. So control what you can.
What can you do about budget reduction decisions? When asked for your advice, provide input. Otherwise, the advice that general manager gave me and my fellow feed company employees applies here. If you are great at your job and help us to effectively and efficiently achieve the mission of K-State Research and Extension, internal and external opportunities will come your way!
What happened to me and that feed company? They were sold to another company about four years later. I had already been recruited and hired by another company two years before that sale, proving the fact that if you work hard and do good work opportunities will open up for you.