By John Higgins
Beacon Journal staff writer
Kent State University won't be hiring for a few months except for a new football coach, police and other ''mission critical'' employees.
''There will be no hiring without my personal signature on the document,'' university President Lester Lefton said following a trustees meeting Wednesday.
Lefton sent an e-mail Wednesday morning to staff informing them of the freeze, which will last at least until March, when he sees what kind of a hit the university will take in the next two-year state budget.
''I don't believe in sugarcoating the truth; the next year will include significant belt-tightening and change,'' Lefton said in the e-mail.
Republican Gov.-elect John Kasich's budget is expected to be announced by March 15. The state anticipates an $8 billion shortfall over the two-year period.
Lefton said about $100 million of KSU's budget is tied to the state.
Meanwhile, Lefton has asked his vice presidents to work out scenarios for cuts of 10, 15 and 20 percent.
They have no specific orders to lay off employees, and Lefton has instructed them to shield the quality of student education as much as possible.
However, labor costs account for 85 percent of the university's budget.
''You've got to come up with a number, because if I have to give back X many millions of dollars, I've got to give back X many millions of dollars,'' Lefton said. ''That is not to say that all budget cuts will be across the board.''
The only concrete action the university is taking now is the hiring freeze.
''It doesn't affect anyone who is here right now,'' Lefton said. ''No one loses their job. No one is in imminent danger of losing their job. What it does affect are people who weren't hired yet or might be hired.''
The university has hired new employees beyond replacing those who have left through attrition in recent years as the student population has swelled.
Student body grows
Kent State has 41,365 students with 15,888 of them attending KSU's seven regional campuses making it the state's second largest university (tied with Cincinnati) behind the Ohio State.
KSU employs 5,600 staff and faculty members.
''We're at an all-time record high in the number of students and you have to have staff to deal with those students, so it necessitates some modest growth, but it's really only been modest,'' Lefton said.
The university also has expanded its course offerings.
''One of the areas that has grown significantly in the last year is public health,'' Lefton said. ''We established a new College of Public Health and that necessitated the hiring of faculty members to staff those new courses and new degree options.''
The university also hired six police officers last year.
''I felt that we were understaffed in policing campus,'' he said.
Lefton is exempting police from the hiring freeze.
The university also is close to hiring a new football coach.
''Given the central role of intercollegiate athletics to Kent State University, you have to have a head coach if you're going to have a competitive football team, so that position will be exempt,'' Lefton said. ''There are a number of positions that are well on track that have to be hired.''
The state budget process will occur over several months.
''It is widely expected that the House and Senate, which are now both dominated by the Republican Party, will quickly endorse the governor's proposal or slightly modify it,'' Lefton said. ''So perhaps by the end of April, we'll actually know what our budget looks like. This will give us time to make whatever decisions need to be made for next year's budget.''
That usually happens in June.