• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

KCTCS regents examine president's compensation

A special compensation committee of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System's (KCTCS) Board of Regents held what a spokesman called a regularly scheduled meeting June 2, but the circumstances regarding Dr. Jay Box are anything but routine. The meeting came two weeks after state Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner took aim at the school president. The day after KCTCS announced cuts of 506 faculty and staff positions across its 16 campuses, Heiner issued a statement saying, "In light of recent reporting, we find reason to question Dr. Box's leadership of KCTCS. We fear that he has lost sight of KCTCS's mission - to focus on preparing Kentuckians for the good jobs that are widely available today. Our cabinet will work with the Council on Postsecondary Education to begin a comprehensive review of KCTCS central office operations." (A KCTCS spokesman said the central office lost 16 positions, only four of which were filled. Box's contract runs through June of 2018.) Heiner's statement also came the day after a story by the Kentucky Center for Investigate Reporting showing KCTCS paid $815,740 to Box's predecessor, Dr. Jay McCall, in the year after he retired. McCall received $300,965 for consulting, $352,066 for unused vacation days, $124,249 in deferred compensation and $38,460 for his final two paychecks. McCall retired in January of 2015; the contract leading to the payouts was approved by the KTCTS Board of Regents in 2010. A spokesman for Heiner said the cabinet secretary's comments were not in retaliation for Box's endorsement of a state House Democrats plan to make KCTCS more affordable for Kentucky high schoolers. Woody Maglinger III said Heiner felt the most recent decrease in KCTCS funding did not justify the faculty and staff position cuts. At a February KCTCS rally in the state capitol covered by The Sun, Box spoke after Bevin defended his decision to cut state KCTCS funding by nine percent. "As most of you know, in the last seven years our state appropriations have been cut (by) $39 million. With proposed additional cuts of $17 million, that total will rise to $56 million. The governor spoke about nine cents, as if nine cents of a dollar is not very much. But if you look at the cumulative costs over the eight years, and now nine years, that nine cents added to 16 more cents that we've already been cut - that's 25 cents of a dollar. "We've already become efficient within KCTCS, as I've mentioned. We've tightened our belt and we have made great efforts to keep our tuition low, because we will be the most affordable and accessible institution in this state," Box said. Maglinger said meetings have been held, but didn't know when the KCTCS spending review would be finished. ". I guess the bottom line was we did not think that was fair to represent the job cuts . just because there was a decrease in funding this year from state government ." Maglinger said, adding that nearly 70 percent of the positions cut were unfilled. "Our ears perked up when we saw the press conference and that they (KCTCS officials) were saying that because of their finances, they were not going to be able to have those staff members. And so Secretary Heiner decided that day that what we needed to do was make sure that KCTCS central office operations are using money wisely ." Maglinger said. Maglinger called the timing of the story regarding McCall's pay "ironic" and that Heiner's criticism of Box had nothing to do with the payout to McCall. Only the board of regents has the ability to hire or fire the KCTCS president. Eight of the 14 regents are appointed by the governor, and none of the present appointees' terms end before next year. P.G. Peeples, who chaired Friday's special compensation committee meeting, told The Sun that he hadn't been pressured by the Bevin administration in regards to Box. Reached by phone, board chair Marcia Roth said of Box, ". I think he's done a remarkable job. He got his feet wet and just went full steam as soon as he got the job. . I'm speaking for myself, not as chair of the board of regents." At that meeting, officials from the Lexington firm Hanna Resources Group, LLC, presented their Feb. 22 "market analysis report." The study called Box's $375,000 compensation package "competitive" with others in his position. The committee took no action in the 12-minute meeting, and the entire board will meet Thursday and Friday, June 9 and 10, in Maysville.

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