The University of Kentucky's largest college is undergoing a major reorganization that will cut eight positions and require more than 100 staff members to reapply for new jobs.
Mark Kornbluh, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said 110 people are affected by the change, which will result in 102 new jobs. It's not clear whether there will be layoffs, as some people might choose to retire rather than make the change, he said.
Kornbluh said current employees will have precedence in the new hiring.
The reorganization, announced to staff Thursday morning, will require the college's departments to share more administrative services. For example, each of the college's 20 departments now has a budget officer. Under the new plan, there will be four. Several departments — particularly those housed in the same building, such as chemistry and physics — might share a purchasing administrator. And all travel reimbursements will be coordinated through one office, rather than in each department.
"The idea is to have greater financial expertise, instead of everyone being a jack of all trades in every department," Kornbluh said. "The administrative demands have really grown over the past 10 to 15 years. We have to be smarter. We have to be more efficient with a more appropriate structure, one that really has experts."
Kornbluh said the goal of the plan is not necessarily to save money, because many of the new positions will require more expertise and more training and pay more than the old ones. However, the entire campus has been facing deep budget cuts, which administrators say are caused by a drop in state funding and rising costs.
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.
After widespread protest by faculty, President Eli Capilouto eased the next fiscal year's woes, helped by an extra $12 million in tuition revenue. Under the latest plan, proposed cuts for academic units of 4.2 percent have been reduced to 2.1 percent.
At least four staff members from the College of Arts and Sciences contacted by the Herald-Leader on Thursday declined to comment.
Mike Adams, chairman of UK's Staff Senate, heard Kornbluh's presentation Thursday morning.
"There's nervousness in the change because details are not completely out," Adams said. "I respect that he's trying to take a bad situation and make it better for staff. I think the overall response was mixed, but the idea that was presented, and the method and the transparency they're trying to maintain is admirable."
Adams said the college's plan contrasts with what he called "the hatchet" that came down in June, when 140 people were summarily fired: "A lot of thought has been put into this."
Kornbluh said new jobs are being posted now, but hiring will take place in waves, and the final plan won't be in place until spring.
"With an understanding this is imperfect," he said, "we may shift things around when we see how it really works."
Staff Trustee Sheila Brothers said she was glad the plan tried to protect current jobs.
"I think they're doing this in a thoughtful, dignified manner," she said. "They have a very strong focus on developing the current staff they have."
Linda Blackford: (859) 231-1359 Twitter: @lbblackford