Regents' Recap

November 2011

President Gamble explains to regents what types of annual investment are needed to keep UA's buildings in good repair. UA photo by Kate Ripley.

Board approves FY13 budget that emphasizes student graduation, high-demand programs

Operating and capital requests next go to Gov. Parnell

The University of Alaska Board of Regents approved an overall budget request for the upcoming fiscal year that emphasizes more and better student advising and a continuation of the tough battle to reduce deferred maintenance across the 16-campus UA System.

The FY13 operating budget, which now goes to Gov. Sean Parnell for his consideration, focuses on high-demand job training in engineering, health and biomedical fields, teacher education and workforce development. The regents met on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus Nov. 2.

The operating budget for UA reflects a number of internal cost-control measures taken in recent months, including a $7 million cost avoidance in the employee health-care plan, reductions in certain fixed costs and an effort to hold down utility cost increases as much as possible.

“I really think the administration is doing a pretty good job of containing costs,” said Regent Tim Brady of Anchorage.

Public testimony touched on a wide range of issues, including strong support from engineering firms for new engineering buildings at UAA and UAF, which are the top new academic construction priority in UA’s 10-year capital improvement plan. Several public and private employers spoke about the need for energy research for Alaska, which is included in the board’s FY13 capital request. Still others spoke in favor of a veterinarian school partnership with Colorado State University, funding for which is included in the FY13 operating budget.

The proposed capital budget continues the UA System’s emphasis on tackling deferred maintenance, with no new construction projects proposed for FY13.  Under the capital plan, UA would put $137.5 million toward deferred maintenance, spread out across the system based on a formula that takes into account building age and other factors. The capital budget also supports Alaska-focused energy research, including energy technology testing and development, energy analysis and fossil fuel research. Arctic oil spill response and ocean acidification impacts on Alaska fisheries would receive a share of state funding under the board-endorsed capital request.

The board also gave permission for Mat-Su College to move ahead with detailed planning and design for the new Valley Center for Arts & Learning in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, not to exceed $20 million. Alaska voters endorsed the project in a general obligation bond last year.

The new building will provide a music classroom, a drama lab, instrument storage, display areas, study areas and a theater large enough for 500 people. Mat-Su College enrollment has grown considerably in recent years, as has the population of the Mat-Su Borough, but the college can only house about 120 people in one venue--the cafeteria. College Director Talis Colberg called the project “transformational” in allowing the campus to serve as a public square for the community. The new center also provides additional space for the region’s medical community to conduct training and continuing education.

Regents tune in

UA photo by Kate Ripley.

Board members Jo Heckman, Ken Fisher and Mike Powers listen to testimony during the Nov. 2 meeting. Behind them is a video monitor showing video conference sites at UAS and UAA.

Singing from the heart

UA photo by Kate Ripley.

UAF Music Professor John Hopkins, left, conducts the Alaska Camerata ensemble during a lunch-time performance for the Board of Regents. Pianist Suzanne McBride is at right, foreground.

Expanded Engineering facilities needed

UA photo by Kate Ripley.

Frank Paskvan of UAF's College of Engineering & Mines Advisory and Development Council and Richard Reich of UAA's School of Engineering Advisory Board support the Engineering Expansion Initiative.

Support for staff

UA photo by Kate Ripley.

UAF Staff Council President Pips Veazey speaks in favor of President Gamble's 3.5 percent across-the-board increase for non-unionized staff members. A majority of board members agreed.