The University of Kentucky has begun laying off a "significant" number of its roughly 14,000 employees, a process that is expected to continue this week and next, according to university officials.
"It is a painful exercise to implement significant reductions in our workforce," UK President Eli Capilouto said in a campus-wide email sent at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. "But there simply is no way to patch over the holes in our budget with temporary measures or one-time sources of funds any longer."
UK, Lexington's largest employer, employs about 2,500 faculty and 9,000 staff. An additional 3,000 employees work for UK Healthcare.
UK spokesman Jay Blanton said administrators are gathering information from individual departments on the total number of people who will lose their jobs. He wouldn't speculate on a final number.
"We expect there will be reductions in our work force; that's happening at the unit level," he said. "The clear direction has been that departments and units will do what is necessary to minimize impact on teaching and direct patient care."
Blanton said some departments have begun giving employees notice that their jobs will end in 90 days.
The layoffs are the first major job losses in recent history at UK, which has dealt with budget problems in recent years largely by freezing new hiring, eliminating raises and increasing tuition.
"The employees who are going to be laid off or reduced, I think they will be finding out very shortly, but I don't think it's done or if it's even completely started," said Sheila Brothers, a staff trustee on the UK Board of Trustees.
Brothers didn't know the magnitude of the job losses, but because administrative units are bearing the brunt of budget cuts, she said, she assumes that there will be more administrative and staff cuts than academic ones.
Capilouto announced last month that UK would cut spending across the campus to make up a $45 million budget hole over the next two fiscal years. It faces a $20 million loss in state funding, and another $23 million gap from rising fixed costs, such as utilities and health care.
UK has lost $50 million in state funding since 2007, Capilouto said in his email to the campus.
"We also now face flat or declining federal support for research, low yields from short-term investment income, and continued increases in basic operating costs," he wrote. "We are no different in that regard from businesses and local and state governments across the country that have faced even deeper cuts over a more prolonged period of time."
Under Capilouto's proposed budget, administrative units that report directly to the president would cut spending 11.4 percent during the next two years, while academic units would face 7.5 percent cuts. Faculty and staff would not get a raise in 2012-13 but would share a 5 percent merit pool the next year.
The board of trustees is scheduled to approve the budget plan at its meeting June 19.
Last month, the board approved a 6 percent tuition increase for the upcoming academic year, bringing the total cost of tuition, fees and housing for in-state undergraduates to $16,518 a year. UK tuition has increased 147 percent over the past decade.
Brothers said she understood that some layoffs could be averted through attrition or job sharing, or even changing some positions to part-time.
"I've asked for more information on the plans," she said. "Departments are working hard to get this information together in a very short time frame. I'm very curious to see what's in the summary."
Robynn Pease, the director of UK's Work Life Office, said each unit was responsible for making decisions.
"At the same time, they are being approved by senior administration and human resources, so people are submitting their proposals and they're being approved," Pease said.
She said another round of layoffs would probably occur between October and January, during the first half of the new fiscal year.
If people have been paying attention to UK's budget issues, they won't be surprised by layoffs, Pease said.
"It wasn't being hidden. It was implied and stated that the budget cut was going to hurt," she said. "I think it's fair to say we're facing now what other universities, such as the University of California system, began facing several years before."
Linda Blackford (859) 231-1359. Twitter: @lbblackford.