UK panel recommends raising Lee Todd's base salary by more than half

Lee T. Todd Jr. announced his retirement as president of the University of Kentucky on Wednesday. Todd, who pinned his presidency on the drive to make UK a Top 20 research university, said at a news conference he would step down on June 30, 2011.
Lee T. Todd Jr. announced his retirement as president of the University of Kentucky on Wednesday. Todd, who pinned his presidency on the drive to make UK a Top 20 research university, said at a news conference he would step down on June 30, 2011.

Outgoing University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr. would get a 51.7 percent increase in his base salary under a proposal approved Thursday by the UK Board of Trustees' executive committee.

In addition, Todd's contract stipulates that he receive a retention bonus equal to his base salary on June 30, 2011 — the day Todd said he will retire.

Todd, who announced Wednesday his intention to retire next year, receives a base salary of $304,000, plus a supplement of $50,000 for serving on academic and research boards.

The committee is recommending a $157,046 increase in his base salary, bringing his annual pay to $511,046. The raise would apply to the current fiscal year and the fiscal year that ended June 30.

The committee also proposed giving Todd an annual bonus of up to $50,000 based on performance.

The full Board of Trustees will consider the committee's recommendation on Tuesday.

The proposal to boost Todd's salary came after the committee reviewed Todd's evaluation. He received a 96 percent positive rating.

Todd called the committee's proposal to restructure his salary fair and said he appreciated the board's high evaluation of his performance.

"Ninety-six is awfully good, and people gave me that before they knew I was going to be retiring," Todd said.

Pamela May, the trustee who detailed the compensation plan to the executive committee, said Todd had not been adequately paid in recent years.

"I feel we have let him down," she said, adding that she was nonetheless sensitive to faculty who are not receiving raises.

Other trustees said Todd's salary would not be attractive to the top-tier presidential candidates the board hopes to lure in coming months.

"We can't hire somebody for what we're paying this president," trustee Frank Shoop said.

Interim board chairman Billy Joe Miles said increasing Todd's salary would send a signal that the UK board is serious about recruiting the best candidate for president, a job he says "is far more important than who the next governor will be" because of the position's effect on the state's education and economic growth.

Others viewed the proposal more dimly, noting that UK faculty and staff have not had raises in three years.

"The vast majority of staff, their salary is less than what the president's bonus will be," said trustee Sheila Brothers, who represents UK's staff employees on the board.

Republican state Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown, chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee, was also critical of the salary hike.

"I have a great deal of respect for Dr. Todd and the work he has accomplished at the university," Thayer said. "However, in these challenging economic times, it's difficult to rationalize this type of expenditure to students, faculty and the taxpayer."

A budget adopted by UK trustees in June included a 1.4 percent reduction in state support during the 2010-11 fiscal year and increased costs for utilities, employee benefits and student financial aid.

Overall, UK is coping with a $7 million shortfall for fiscal 2010-11. Trustees didn't say how they intend to fund Todd's proposed pay raise.

New faculty trustee Joe Peek said the change amounts to moving money from one pot — a series of bonuses that Todd could accept or reject — into a standard salary.

"It takes the pressure off him (Todd), because he doesn't have to fight the push back about accepting or not accepting the bonus," Peek said.

Under his current contract, Todd would have been eligible for a performance bonus of as much as $200,000 this year. In previous years, Todd has turned down some or all of his bonus payments, citing the university's budget woes.

In 2002, Todd turned down a $100,000 bonus. In 2009, Todd turned down a $168,000 bonus, prompting trustee James Stuckert to object: "He is CEO of a $2.4 billion entity. I think anything under $1 million is paltry, personally."

In a survey published this year by The Chronicle of Higher Education, the highest-paid university president, E. Gordon Gee at Ohio State University, made more than $1.5 million. Gee was the only president in the survey to top $1 million.

The survey said the median total compensation for chief executives at public institutions was $436,111 in the 2008-09 academic year, a 2.3 percent increase over 2007-08.

Trustees also discussed whether increasing Todd's compensation contradicted a state law that grants the highest state academic salary to Robert King, head of the Council on Postsecondary Education. King makes $400,000 a year.

The law requires King to be paid more than the base salary of any president of a Kentucky public university, but it does not set limits for the base salaries that universities may pay their presidents.

King had a positive job evaluation in July, but received no additional money, said council spokeswoman Sue Patrick. King could not be reached for comment.

Gov. Steve Beshear said he was confident that UK and the council would resolve any issues regarding the salaries of their chief executives. Beshear spokeswoman Kerri Richardson declined to comment further.

Among Kentucky public university presidents, Gary Ransdell, president of Western Kentucky University, had a 2009 base salary of $352,020, and James Ramsey, president of the University of Louisville, had a 2009 base salary of $314,037.

Also Thursday, Shoop, who heads the board's nominating committee, said the nominee for board chairman would be Edward Britt Brockman, a Louisville doctor.

The new board chairman will likely appoint a search committee to search for a replacement to Todd within the next few weeks, Shoop said.

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