Todd takes funding outlook to trustees

After weeks of meetings with state officials, campus leaders and the media, President Lee Todd addressed the effects of a drop in state funding in front of the UK Board of Trustees.

“It’s like a hospital. If you tell an administrator, ‘You can hire as many surgeons as you want, but no new operating rooms,’ it’d fall apart,” Todd said, “and that’s the state we’re in right now.”

During the board’s first full meeting of the semester, Todd said the university’s most important request for the 2008-10 biennium is operating funds, which UK uses to pay salaries and hire new employees. The second-highest priority for UK is capital projects, which include building construction and renovations.

Todd said a budget cut like the one Gov. Steve Beshear asked public universities to prepare for — a 12 percent decrease in state funding in addition to a 3 percent cut already in place through July — would hinder UK’s ability to find people and space.

To help the state deal with budget difficulties, Todd said that his office is preparing a report with suggestions for how the state can save money using the same methods UK uses in areas like healthcare costs.

“I think it is a very good time in the state to look at the places we spend money,” Todd said.

Whether the board will approve less funding for projects in coming months is still not certain, said Frank Butler, executive vice president for finance and administration.

Butler, who has worked with the board on financial matters, said decisions by the state legislature in the next few months would shape UK’s budget, as the amount of funding from the state won’t be known until March or April.

“The only thing we know for sure is the 3 percent budget cut,” he said.

During its meeting yesterday, the board also approved hiring Michael Speaks as the new dean of the College of Design. Previously, Speaks was a professor at the Southern California Institute of Architecture and a lecturer for the University of California, Los Angeles Department of Architecture and Urban Planning. He will officially take over as dean on Feb. 1.

Speaks replaces David Mohney, who resigned as dean in June after serving more than 13 years. Mohney stayed at UK and is currently a professor in the School of Architecture.

Finally, the trustees approved yesterday the three finalists for an alumni seat on the board: NBC sports announcer Tom Hammond, Northern Kentucky businessman John Cain, and Washington, D.C., lawyer Jo Hern Curris.

UK graduates voted between Nov. 30 and Dec. 31 to select the finalists, whose names will now be submitted to Beshear. The governor will choose one to serve a six-year term from July 1 to June 30, 2014 as one of three alumni trustees.

The newly selected trustee will succeed Myra Leigh Tobin, an alumni trustee since 2002 whose term expires June 30.