University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto announced Monday that he would ease the pain of predicted budget cuts, thanks to $12 million more in tuition revenue.
At a campus forum that was largely more positive than previous ones, Capilouto said his decisions were influenced by faculty and staff who have repeatedly — and sometimes angrily — questioned his decisions on across-the-board budget cuts.
"I invited this robust discussion," Capilouto said. "It was not a hollow gesture. ... For me, navigating these times requires engagement of our constituents."
Capilouto said tuition revenue was $12 million more than expected, thanks to a freshman class of 4,600 that included a higher percentage of out-of-state students who pay almost double the rate of in-state students.
During the 2012-13 fiscal year, budgets for administrative units were cut by 5 percent and academic units by 3.3 percent. In addition, 140 employees were laid off.
Under the new plan:
■ Administrative budget cuts of 6.4 percent will be reduced to 5 percent. Proposed cuts for academic units of 4.2 percent will be reduced to 2.1 percent.
■ Interim Provost Tim Tracy will use $8.3 million to form a strategic initiatives pool that will be returned to the academic units for education, research and service. Those decisions will be made with the help of deans and department chairs, Capilouto said.
■ The amount being given to a debt service pool for facility improvements will be reduced from $7 million to $2 million for fiscal year 2013-14. In the current year's budget, $5 million was put into the pool, but faculty and staff have criticized the proposed additions because of cuts elsewhere.
Capilouto kept his original budget plan for next year of tuition increases of no more than 3 percent and a 5 percent increase in the merit salary pool.
He also addressed persistent concerns and rumors about cuts to graduate education, which he admitted were due to poor communication on his part.
"There is an impression that graduate education is being overlooked," he said. "I recognize it is a vital part of research and learning at UK."
He also warned that UK must do better on retention and graduation rates. UK's six-year graduation rate is 59 percent. He called the improvements a moral imperative but also noted that improving retention rates by 5 percent could result in $12 million to $15 million more in recurring revenue.
However, in response to a question, Capilouto would not commit to saying there would be no more layoffs, saying each unit had to make its own decisions with the now-reduced budget cuts.
Academic colleges and units are scheduled to present budget plans to the provost's office later this month as a follow-up to meetings that occurred in September to make decisions about final reallocations.
"I use a lot of information to move forward," Capilouto said after the meeting. "When I entered this process it was not because I had final answers."
University Senate Council chairwoman Lee Blonder said she thought faculty and staff felt better after the announcement.
"It shows he listened, he's willing to compromise," she said. "We'll have to see how it plays out. We don't want the communication to end with this meeting."
Linda Blackford: (859) 231-1359. Twitter: @lbblackford.