June 08, 2007

UA Regents approve budget distribution, wrap up two-day meeting

For Immediate Release
Friday, June 8, 2007

The University of Alaska Board of Regents approved the budget distribution for the fiscal year starting July 1, honored UA researchers dedicated to the International Polar Year and received numerous updates on university programs during a two-day meeting that wrapped up in Fairbanks Thursday.

Regents and roughly 200 members of the UAF and Fairbanks community also attended a naming and dedication ceremony of the Natural Sciences Building on the UAF campus in honor of retiring provost Paul Reichardt, who taught and served in administrative positions at UAF for 35 years. 

The Alaska Legislature recently approved a total of $292.5 million in state general funds for the university's operating budget, up $10 million compared to the current fiscal year but still $1.6 million shy of meeting the fixed-cost need in required retirement payments and $16.3 million below the regents' request.  Federal funding, private donations, university receipts and other funding brings the total UA system operating budget to $798.8 million for the new fiscal year, compared to $774.1 million for the current year.

Board members agreed with a plan presented by UA President Mark Hamilton to squeeze $2.5 million from across the system and reallocate it toward key workforce development programs that were part of the regents' original request.  Programs in allied health and public health, nursing, construction management, mining, geography and engineering-at the top of the regents' "Preparing Alaskans for Jobs" category in the UA budget-all will benefit from the reallocation.

"These workforce programs are critical for the economic health of our state," Hamilton said. "While reallocations are difficult to do internally, they demonstrate a real commitment on the part of this university and the board, and a willingness to bet on the fact that state support will be forthcoming."

He emphasized that the reallocations are temporary. "The real problem will come in a year or two if we fail to receive the necessary state funding for continuing the programs," he said.  

The board also approved spending the $13.8 million received from the Legislature's capital budget on several projects, including maintenance, the
purchase of Homer City Hall for an expansion of the Kachemak Bay Campus,
planning money for a new UAA sports arena, and several other projects.

In other business, regents received an update from researchers involved in the International Polar Year, a two-year, multinational effort that focuses on scientific research affecting Earth's polar regions. The university recently hired 11 postdoctoral fellows throughout the system to focus largely on global climate change research, with funds provided by annual gifts to UA by BP and ConocoPhillips. In addition, UAA's Institute of Social and Economic Research has a 12th polar year researcher funded separately through a federal grant focusing on social science issues related to global climate change.  In addition to individual updates by many of the researchers during the board meeting, the board and members of the community attended a public reception at the Museum of the North on Wednesday.

Hamilton also presented UA's annual "Make Students Count" awards to staff members from UAA, UAF, UAS and the statewide administration. The recipients, nominated by fellow staff members for excellent service to students, each receive a check for $1,000 and two domestic airline tickets. Winners this year were Anissa Hauser of UAA; Mary Parsons of UAF; Christopher Washko of UAS; and Mike Molnia of the statewide administration.  

In other business, regents approved total project cost increases for two projects-renovations to the Arctic Health Research Building on the UAF campus and the new Lena Point fisheries facility in Juneau, part of UAF's School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

Due to a volatile construction market in Juneau, the Lena Point project requires an additional $1.7 million than the funding level previously approved, bringing the new total project cost, including construction, equipment and furnishings, to $26.2 million.

The Arctic Health renovations required an additional $2 million to allow for sprinkler installation in the west wing, which until recently housed research animals, and additional renovations to the east wing than the earlier level of funding would have allowed. UAF will debt finance the additional renovations, bringing the total project cost to $7.7 million.


For more information, call Kate Ripley at 907/450-8102 or 907/388-3506.

For a 200 dpi photo of the Make Students Count award winners, go to http://www.alaska.edu/opa/images/studentscount-2007.jpg.zip.   Pictured from left to right are Mike Molnia, SW; Christopher Washko, UAS; Mary Parsons, UAF; and Anissa Hauser, UAA.