By Wes Swietek Bowling Green Daily News

Western Kentucky University will cut about 140 positions, eliminate the University College and turn over management of WKU's regional campuses internally to the Division of Extended Learning & Outreach, among other changes announced Friday to make up a $15 million budget shortfall.

"I know this is painful," WKU President Timothy Caboni said Friday at the Board of Regents meeting, where a budget stabilization plan was presented. "Unfortunately, this is only the first phase."

A message Caboni sent to WKU staff said: "Out of more than 2,000 budgeted positions on campus, we will eliminate 40 vacant positions created through attrition. An additional 90 to 100 filled positions will be eliminated to meet the targeted budget reductions."

The exact positions to be cut have not been finalized.

"University administrators will make those decisions during the next few days, and employees whose positions are eliminated will be notified in person by mid-March," Caboni wrote. "I know that this already has caused significant concern throughout our campus community, but we simply must give managers the time to make appropriate decisions. They are closest to their operations and are best situated to make final determinations about reductions in their respective divisions and colleges. All employees who will be displaced as a result of this budget reduction effort will be paid through June 30 unless they separate from the University prior to that date."

The budget plan was developed by an advisory budget council and presented to Caboni last week. Caboni accepted 32 of the 35 recommendations presented by the budget council.

Among the proposals Caboni accepted are to "evaluate viability of all regional campuses. Where possible, communicate with local government leaders in each location to explore potential fiscal partnerships. However, WKU should remain fully committed to its mission of providing postsecondary throughout its service region."

The University College, which serves nontraditional students, will be dissolved by July 1, Caboni said at the regents meeting.

One proposal Caboni rejected was to freeze new building projects that add fixed costs to the university's operating budget.

The recommended budget cuts by department are:

Academic Affairs, $7,366,584 (46.1 percent).

Athletics, $1,346,259 (8.4 percent).

Facilities, $609,060 (3.8 percent).

Philanthropy, $717,320 (4.5 percent).

Finance and Administration, $718,537 (4.5 percent).

General Counsel, $28,807 (0.2 percent).

Information Technology, $844,287 (5.3 percent).

Public Affairs, $540,479 (3.4 percent).

Student Affairs, $888,760 (5.6 percent).

President, $85,327 (0.5 percent).

Universitywide, $646,550 (4.0 percent).

Other (F&A, assessment on revenue, etc.), $2,192,953 (13.7 percent).

As Caboni admitted, more WKU cuts are likely to come this year: Along with its roughly $15 million current budget shortfall, WKU is also facing a potential pension payment increase of $7,263,300, a proposed decrease in state funding of $4,619,000 and the elimination of $750,000 for its statewide Kentucky Mesonet weather station network for a total budget deficit of $27,632,300.