At his first regular meeting with the Board of Regents since assuming the presidency of the University of Alaska, Mark R. Hamilton outlined his strategy for the development of a three-year budget plan designed to get the University of Alaska back on track after several years of debilitating budget reductions and reallocations."This is a time of great opportunity for the state and theuniversity," Hamilton said. "We have a powerful Congressional delegation, a high degree of political stability in the state and a university that is regarded by Alaskans as one of the state's most important resources."
"We are on the brink of the new millennium," Hamilton said, "and Alaskans know the university has a very important role to play as Alaska prepares to enter a new century."
"This fiscal year we made some significant gains on the capital side for the university," the president said. "Budget requests for the next fiscal year will continue the capital program, and begin to focus on the operating budget as we move into a three-year plan that I'm convinced will help put the university on track for the future."
Hamilton said he told his budget staff to put together a capital budget program with three goals: eliminate the deferred maintenance backlog; make major investments in high tech equipment; and build facilities that capitalize on partnerships and existing infrastructure. "The governor and the legislature have recognized the need to protect our existing infrastructure," Hamilton said, "and we will continue to work with them on a phased approach to address these issues, as well as bringing additional capital needs for new construction, equipment and needed replacement and renovation funding to their attention."
"Deferred investment in the university's human infrastructure is just as serious as the problem of deferred maintenance," he stressed, "and it is our responsibility to inform and convince the public and the legislature of the need to develop and implement a plan to bring theuniversity operating budgets back to a level that will allow our programs to meet the needs and expectations of all Alaskans." Budget documents show the university budget approximately 14 percent or $25 million below the level expected if the base budget had been keeping up with inflation over the past four years.
President Hamilton reiterated the importance of the public and political support received this year, and proposed a three-year program for restoring the university operating and capital funding levels that builds on that support. While current state budget constraints might not allow budget adjustments sufficient to fix the university's shortfall in one year, the president believes that a three-year program of rebuilding is possible and essential. The FY2000 operating budget that President Hamilton will propose at the October 1-2 Board of Regents meeting will include the first phase of the funding necessary to ensure high academic quality in core disciplines, keep pace with technology and enhance the high demand instructional and research programs that support the state's employment and economic development needs.
Rising health care costs have resulted in charges to university employees for health care coverage beginning in January. The charge will be approximately $30 per month to a total annual cost of $285 per employee for 1999. Next year the university's defined contribution will increase from $414 per employee per month to $427 per employee per month. In order to help employees control the increase in future charges for the year 2000, the university is exploring new health care plan options.
A $5.9 million upgrade of UAF's Poker Flat Research Range got the go-ahead from regents. The upgrade will include a range administration center, lidar research laboratory, upper range road and backup electrical power projects, and is scheduled for completion in June 2000. The project is federally funded.
Improved space for job training in the vocational-technical programs of Tanana Valley College and the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District will result from the proposed Hutchison Career Center renovation and addition project. Regents authorized the administration to spend up to $1.6 million for planning and design. Next year's capital budget request will include $5.52 million for the construction of the UAF portion of the facility. The Fairbanks North Star Borough anticipates selling bonds to fund the $10 million construction of its portion of the project.
UAA's FY99 capital improvement projects, which include $4.7 million for deferred maintenance, code compliance and renovation of facilities, as well as $9.5 million for the new Anchorage campus library, were approved.
Regents approved a one-time supplemental salary distribution of $300 to non-union classified, professional and technical staff effective in January 1999. The distribution is commensurate with a similar one-time payment made earlier to employees in collective bargaining units.