Details came into focus this week about the upcoming budgets of both the University of Kentucky and Lexington Fayette Urban County Government.
UK's $3.4 billion budget, 41 percent attributed to the health care complex, will be the institution's largest ever if approved, as expected, by the board of trustees next week. The county council completed a long look at a $323 million budget that begins July 1.
The budgets share some common themes: improved pay and investments in projects to advance their missions. Notable and commendable is a significant commitment to improving the salaries, and thereby the lives, of employees:
■ UK plans to raise the entering minimum wage for employees to $10 an hour beginning July 1. Student employees are not covered, nor are those who work for vendors operating food and housing services on campus. UK has also established a 3.5 percent merit pool, up from 2 percent the last couple of budgets, for faculty and staff raises.
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■ The council voted to increase the minimum wage paid by the city to $8.15 an hour, including those in the summer youth jobs program. It also approved a 4 percent increase for employees not covered under collective-bargaining agreements.
Both budgets also include important investments in bricks-and-mortar projects. The council left two of Mayor Jim Gray's major requests in the budget, $22 million for the renovation of the Old Courthouse and $10 million for Town Branch Commons, the linear park proposed through downtown.
UK's projects include more space at the medical center, a new science building and expansions at the law and business schools. Still, a significant portion of the new construction — more dorms and eating facilities — will be underwritten by the private firms that run those operations now.
With the state contribution dropping to a new low of 8 percent of the total budget, UK is relying increasingly on private-sector partners and higher tuition.
Increases this year are 3 percent for in-state students and 6 percent for out-of-state students, who will make up 37 percent of the freshman class. The estimated total cost per year to attend will be a whopping $26,700 for Kentucky students and $40,000 for out-of-state students.
Kentucky is cheating its future by shortchanging public universities, created to improve the state's fortunes by giving more young residents access to higher education. The endless cuts undermine that lofty goal by forcing schools to balance the books by hiking tuition and bringing in more out-of-state students.