November 02, 2007

UA Board of Regents to decide FY 2009 budget request

The University of Alaska Board of Regents will discuss next year’s budget request for the 16-campus system when members gather at the University of Alaska Fairbanks on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
The day-long meeting will take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Room 109 of the Butrovich Building, on UAF’s West Ridge. Members of the public can testify at approximately 10 a.m.
The university has added 100 new degree and certificate programs in the last nine years, predominantly in areas deemed “high demand” by the Alaska Department of Labor, including engineering, health care, fisheries and the mining, oil and gas sectors, among others. Because of the increased offerings, the university now attracts over 62 percent of Alaska high-school students who opt for training and education beyond high school, compared to 44 percent nine years ago.
In some ways, however, the university is a victim of its own success, said UA President Mark Hamilton.
“Because of our aggressive response to state and industry needs, and the necessary growth that occurred as a result, there’s a myth that everything is fine at the university--that we’re fat and happy,” Hamilton said. “The truth is, many of these new programs have been started with a lot of soft money—industry donations and partnerships. That’s a generous and important piece, but you can’t sustain programs without a predictable, recurring source of funds. We need continued and even stronger support from the governor and the state legislature.”
The current fiscal year’s level of state support, at $292.6 million, was not enough to meet the university’s fixed costs for items such as compensation, utilities, health care and other necessities. Board members agreed to a painful internal reshuffling of $2.5 million last summer, allowing the university to continue on with several key workforce development programs important to students and Alaska employers. But that level of redistribution would be nearly impossible to repeat, Hamilton warned.
The administration’s proposal for this next fiscal year is for $319.6 million from the state, which would allow $13.8 million toward key workforce programs in health care fields, engineering, construction management and fisheries.  That level of state support also would include $3.5 million toward UA research; $2.7 million for student success initiatives; and $1.8 million to beef up UAF’s Cooperative Extension Service, as well as other public service and outreach efforts.
In addition, the $13.8 million increase in state support would leverage $16.5 million in university generated revenue, providing a total of $30.3 million additional toward priority programs.
The university’s capital budget request, meanwhile, is divided into several sections, with maintaining existing buildings at the top of the list for $50 million. That money would be spread out for major renewal and renovation work needed on numerous buildings throughout the system.
“We have over six million square feet, stretching from Ketchikan to Kotzebue, housed within 400 buildings valued at over $1.7 billion,” Hamilton said. “We must have adequate funding to keep our campus buildings and grounds in good shape.”
Next on the capital list is $66 million toward the first phase of UAF’s proposed biological research facility, dubbed BIOS, followed by $46 million for a new joint health-care training facility with Anchorage-area hospitals at the University of Alaska Anchorage. The capital spending plan also calls for $70 million to address a backlog on maintenance projects across the system, for a total of $232 million.
Other unranked projects on the capital list include a student recreation center at UAA, the second phase of UAA student housing, research vessel dock improvements for UAF and improved broadband Internet connectivity, among other projects. These projects would bring the total bricks-and-mortar budget request to $306 million in state general funds.
Once the board votes on the capital and operating budgets, the request goes to Gov. Sarah Palin for consideration. The regular legislative session begins Jan. 15, 2008.
For a complete agenda, go to

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