Todd's office raises questions about priorities

Staff writer Cheryl Truman reported last week that some professors are questioning why the University of Kentucky is spending $143,828 to renovate an office for former president Lee T. Todd Jr.

A lot of taxpayers and lawmakers are no doubt wondering the same thing and whether they should heed UK's pleas for more support.

Adding to the skepticism, one professor said it's common for UK construction projects to cost more than they should. If so, that could be a useful line of inquiry for state Auditor Crit Luallen.

UK says it has $1 billion in building needs and deferred maintenance. But maybe with some sharper pencils that estimate could be shaved to, oh, two-thirds of a billion.

It's not that anyone begrudges Todd an office, approved by the Board of Trustees.

He will be a well-paid ($162,000 a year) engineering faculty member, after receiving his $511,000 retention bonus, and wants to earn his keep by working on starting up companies from UK research — something in which he has strong experience.

The average Kentuckian probably doesn't feel qualified to judge whether executive compensation in higher education is extravagant.

But they know about remodeling costs.

People are legitimately questioning why converting a conference room into a suite for Todd and his assistant should cost as much as the median sale price for a house in Central Kentucky — a house that many Kentuckians would consider palatial.