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Cold-resistent flowering kale adds color to garden beds long after the summer blooms have faded. Photo by Monique Musick

Announcements: August 2018

  • IRS urges taxpayers to do a “paycheck checkup”
  • September is College Savings Month
  • Enhanced Travel Benefit for UA Choice Health Plans
  • UA Travel Project Update
  • Wellness program updates
  • UA is upgrading to Banner 9 - implementation target of October 29, 2018
  • Update on OU Campus transition
  • OIT's new and improved status page
  • Employee training report posted to Vista Plus
  • August Human Resources updates
  • SAA August meeting highlights

IRS urges taxpayers to do a “paycheck checkup”

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) enacted in December made major changes to tax law. The Internal Revenue Service strongly encourages taxpayers to do a “paycheck checkup” to make sure they have the right amount of tax withheld from their paychecks.

To help taxpayers understand the implications of the changes, the IRS unveiled several new features. The effort includes a series of Tax Reform Tax Tips, YouTube videos to walk taxpayers through what they need to know about withholding, the Withholding Calculator and filling out a new Form W-4 if needed, and other efforts to help people understand the importance of checking their withholding as soon as possible.

With the new tax law changes, it’s especially important for certain people to use the Withholding Calculator to make sure they have the right amount of withholding.

Among the groups who should check their withholding are:

  • Two-income families.
  • People working two or more jobs or who only work for part of the year.
  • People with children who claim credits such as the Child Tax Credit.
  • People with older dependents, including children age 17 or older.
  • People who itemized deductions in 2017.
  • People with high incomes and more complex tax returns.
  • People with large tax refunds or large tax bills for 2017.

The law increased the standard deduction, removed personal exemptions, increased the child tax credit, limited or discontinued certain deductions and changed the tax rates and brackets.

IRS withholding calculator:  https://www.irs.gov/individuals/irs-withholding-calculator

The IRS says the Withholding Calculator can help prevent employees from having too little or too much tax withheld from their paycheck. Having too little tax withheld can mean an unexpected tax bill or potentially a penalty at tax time in 2019. And with the average refund topping $2,800, some taxpayers might prefer to have less tax withheld up front and receive more in their paychecks.

The Withholding Calculator does not request personally-identifiable information such as your name, Social Security number, address or bank account. The IRS says they will not save or record any information that's entered into the calculators.

UA employees who need to adjust their withholding will need to submit a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, to their human resources office.

Wellness program updates

University of Alaska’s FY19 wellness program with Healthyroads is LIVE! Any employee, spouse/FIP currently on the UA Choice Plan is eligible to participate. Not only will you have support with your overall health and wellness goals, but you can also receive a $600 wellness rebate next year, during FY20!

Want to learn more about the program and how to earn the wellness rebate? Head over to the UA benefits/wellness page where you will locate all pertinent program information such as:

Additional Questions?

Please reach-out to UA's On-Site Wellness Manager from Healthyroads, Sara Rodewald at sararo@ashn.com or (907)450-8203

Employee training report posted to Vista Plus

Human Resources has been working with myUA to allow department admins to pull training reports for their entire area. Unfortunately, the organizational structures within myUA does not make this a feasible option at this time. While the project team is exploring other options, a very basic report has been uploaded to Vista Plus. This report shows all of the current training records for employees within the university, sorted by TKL. This includes the four mandatory training modules, as well as any other training records stored within myUA.

The Training Report is found within Vista Plus: Human Resources > Personnel > Training, and is available to PPA’s and CCC’s as well as the Campus HR Teams. The report is best accessed using Google Chrome and users will be prompted to download the report in order to view it.

The project team is continuing to work with myUA to build better data views that will eventually allow departments to easily access this information through myUA. Until a better, long-lasting solution is in place, the team will upload a new file to this same location each quarter. When posted, they’ll send an email out to both the myUA Workteam and the A-Team announcing its availability. 

Please contact your campus HR office if you have any questions regarding this new report or mandatory training requirements.

August Human Resources updates

Each month Human Resources provides an update on systemwide projects currently in process. The details of these projects are still being worked on and communication will also be sent to those directly impacted prior to the effective date of the change.

To see previous versions please go to the Statewide Human Resources web page at the following link: http://alaska.edu/hr/whats-new-at-statewide/index.xml.

Updates in the August edition:DOWNLOAD PDF

Maintenance issues:

  • Learning management system
  • Leadership positions - updated 8/17/18
  • Student employment procedures
  • Local 6070 payroll procedures
  • Review of service date usage in Banner
  • Affordable Care Act procedures

Required projects and tasks:

  • Banner 9 upgrade
  • Removal of transition steps from temporary salary schedule
  • Faculty and staff compensation equity study
  • RFPs for healthcare, pharmacy, vision and wellness
  • Local 6070 collective bargaining negotiation

Process improvement projects and tasks

  • Accelerated collection and processing of new hire paperwork
  • Standardization of FML processing
  • Leadership development
  • Electronic benefit enrollment forms
  • Recruitment alignment project
  • Retirement file project
  • Performance appraisal improvement project

SAA August Highlights

The Statewide Administration Assembly held a regular business meeting on Thursday, August 2. Below are highlights from the meeting.

August 2018 SAA Meeting Highlights

  1. SAA representatives heard updates on the CITO recuitment from FY18 Staff Alliance Chair Kara Axx, who is serving as the staff representative on the recruitment committee. 
  2. Representatives also met with Sara Rodewald, the on-site manager for HealthyRoads. Sara provided an overview of the program and noted changes for FY19, including reduced requirements for healthy FY18 biometric results and moving the rebate from bi-weekly payments to a one-time lump sum payment in November. Read more on UA's HealthyRoads website
  3. Steve Mullins and Dawn Lighthall discussed emergency procedures with SAA and noted they are still working to update evacuation posters for both the Butrovich and Bragaw buildings. Representatives suggested sending out more communication or hosting a debrief about emergency evacuation to help reaffirm correct procedures.
  4. Representatives heard the Staff Alliance will hold its summer retreat in Fairbanks on August 17 and will elect new officers at that time.   
  5. SAA plans to send out a morale survey to SW staff this fall; members discussed survey questions and distribution methods. 
  6. Representatives were introduced to an accessibility project currently underway. A system-wide working group has been tasked with developing a new policy on providing accessible websites and other materials for people with disabilities.  
  7. Representatives also discussed SAA's list of FY19 events and noted they would like to look into possibly donating to a new winter holiday charity. 
  8. SAA was also reminded that FY19 parking payments will now be deducted post-tax (if payroll deduction is the selected payment method).

SAA will meet next on Thursday, September 6 in Butrovich 212b in Fairbanks and Bragaw 210 in Anchorage. All staff are encouraged and welcome to attend. Reach out to SAA representatives to share your ideas and/or concerns. Additional information about SAA meetings is available on its website

Saving for college looks good on Sofia, Dominic, and Isabel Dosch! Photo by Myron Dosch

September is College Savings Month

September is College Savings Month, as proclaimed by Governor Bill Walker. UA encourages all families to evaluate their college savings goals and take advantage of Alaska’s top-rated 529 offering, the UA College Savings Plan!

The UA College Savings Plan is a tax-advantaged way to save for future education expenses. It offers many benefits including a variety of investment options, several contribution methods and portability. As an employee at the University of Alaska, you have the option to save conveniently through payroll deduction. Please contact us for more information.

We have been busy this past year making the Plan even better. Here are a few enhancements we are are pleased to share with you:

  1. The GoTuition Gifting Portal, an online tool that makes it easy for you to ask friends and family to contribute to your child’s college savings plan in lieu of gifts for traditional celebrations like graduations, baby showers, and birthdays. It allows gift givers to conveniently transfer funds to your account.
  2. Education Planning Center, a comprehensive, planning tool that helps plan participants know if they’re on track with their savings goals. It provides personalized, age-specific, education passports from birth to graduation, and information on financial aid, scholarships, and grants.
  3. 529 accounts have become even more versatile. You are now permitted to take 529 college savings plan distributions of up to $10,000 per beneficiary per year for tuition at an elementary or secondary public, private, or religious school.

Our goal is to make saving for educational expenses easy, and to help you make the most of your savings. Happy College Savings Month!

UA Travel Project Update

In May 2017, a University of Alaska Travel and Expense Program assessment was conducted by Huron Consultants. They completed interviews with key stakeholders, representing staff and faculty from across the three main campus units, to assess the current travel program and identify optimization and enhancement opportunities.  

Key findings and observations:

  • The current university travel system is no longer sustainable from a technological perspective, and must be replaced. Upgrades and enhancements are no longer supported by Banner (Ellician), and must be replaced to avoid the risks of trying to maintain it without the ability to upgrade.
  • Travel policies, processes and procedures need to be streamlined to create the best overall experience for travelers, department/unit administrators and the institution.
  • The system does not meet all of the needs of University of Alaska business travelers. It provides expense reimbursement but no support for travel planning or tools for the traveler’s convenience.

Over 150 key stakeholders engaged in the needs assessment, analysis and selection of Concur Travel & Expense System (Concur), or implementation processes.  MORE...

Enhanced Travel Benefit for UA Choice Health Plans

The Travel Support Benefit is now called the Elective Procedure Travel program, and offers several enhancements in services and benefits. This program covers hundreds of planned, non-emergency services and medical procedures in the continental U.S. A dedicated travel expert at Premera makes it much easier to take advantage of this benefit!

Find out if medical travel is the right choice for you with these two easy steps:

  1. Ask your doctor:
    - If it’s safe for you to travel for medical care
    - What the procedure code is for the care you need
  2. Call Premera at 800-364-2994.
    A medical travel expert can tell you if you’re approved for medical travel and if you need additional approval for your procedure. (Approvals must be granted prior to travel.) They can even reserve and pre-pay your airline tickets if you choose!

Travel for a companion can be covered if medically necessary, as verified in advance by your provider. You do need to be pre-approved for this benefit.

For travel within Alaska, the original travel benefit is still available to cover the airfare for you to travel when there is no local option available. This benefit covers travel (airfare, train, ferry) for the patient, and a caregiver companion if the patient is a minor under 18.

More information is available on the Premera travel web site, found here:

Premera.com/medical-transportation

UA is upgrading to Banner 9 - implementation target of October 29, 2018

The University of Alaska relies on Banner by Ellucian for financial, student services, financial aid and human resource operations. Ellucian’s support for the current version of Banner (Banner 8) will stop fall 2018. UA-wide implementation teams are working to ensure that UA modifications are migrated to Banner 9 so that our business processes still function appropriately.

Target Implementation date to UA Banner users:  October 29, 2018  MORE....

Update on OU Campus transition

OIT announced last spring that it is replacing the web content management system Roxen with OU Campus at UAF and UA statewide.

OU Campus websites for both UAF and UA statewide will begin launching at the start of the fall semester, with more being launched gradually over the course of the semester. If you’re interested in developing a new OU Campus website now, you can contact the OIT service desk. Otherwise, the OIT Service Desk will contact Roxen website managers on a site-by-site basis over the course of the fall semester when they’re ready to migrate each website to OU Campus.

OU Campus is used by nearly 300 colleges and universities . It is designed specifically for higher education.

For a project overview, updates and FAQs, please visit https://www.alaska.edu/oit/projects/oucampus/ or contact the OIT service desk at  http://alaska.edu/oit/get-help/ , or email helpdesk@alaska.edu .

OIT's new and improved status page

We all work hard to keep service interruptions to a minimum and have a good record of uptime across our core services.

But like anyone, we occasionally have interruptions in service. Typically it’s just a small, scheduled maintenance window, which we often try to do during non-working hours. If we do have an unplanned outage, we aim to get things back up and running as soon as possible.

In either case, over the last year, we've had opportunities to improve the communication side of planned and unplanned outages. Our team at OIT has worked tirelessly towards this objective: communicate with clarity and transparency so you are never left in the dark if things aren’t running as expected. Most prominently, this involved having a single public-facing source of information to make it quicker to update, and easier for you to find the system status that you’re looking for.

Since January OIT has been posting updates here: status.alaska.edu. Our new and improved status page allows you to see if we have an ongoing outage, and historical information on past outages. This third-party tool will allow us to continue to communicate and send updates even if there is a major outage across all of our systems.

As always, if you have questions please do not hesitate to contact the OIT Service Desk for further information!

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