UA Board of Regents formulates Legislative budget requests

The University of Alaska Board of Regents this week is meeting in Juneau. Among the topics up for discussion is figuring how the university should move forward in a progressively bleaker fiscal climate, and developing a plan of attack for their legislative budget requests.

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As state funding continues to decrease, the University of Alaska has typically relied on formulaic, across-the-board cuts, applied on a campus-by-campus basis. This year, however, Regent Gloria O’Neill says the board is adopting a different approach.

Jim Johnsen at a meet and greet in Juneau, July 7, 2015. Johnsen is a candidate for University of Alaska president. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)
Jim Johnsen at a meet and greet in Juneau, July 7, 2015. Johnsen is a candidate for University of Alaska president. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

“So, instead of looking at specific campuses, really looking at the entire system and saying what’s important to us? What are our strategic goals?” O’Neill said. “And then what are the costs around that and how well are we doing?”

The Board of Regents plans to bring in higher education experts from around the country who have recently dealt with the same types of issues, as a way to guide the university’s evaluation and budgetary process.

University President Jim Johnsen says the state Office of Management and Budget is planning for a 4.8 percent – or $15 million – reduction for the university in the next fiscal year.

Taking the looming drop in state funding into account, Johnsen says the capital budget request in front of the Board of Regents takes a modest, focused approach in outlining university priorities:

“The preliminary word from OMB is there will be no deferred maintenance this year,” Johnsen said. “Completion of the UAF engineering building is of paramount importance for us.”

“We’ve included no funding here for planning and design of new facilities.”

Johnsen says OMB also indicated it’s unlikely there will be funding available for the UAF engineering building, which is partially built, awaiting funding for its final phase of construction.

The proposed capital budget asks for $134.8 million in state funding – over $37 million more than last year’s request.

Johnsen also outlined the priorities of the proposed operating budget, rounding out at nearly $377.8 million.

“We’ve placed a very high priority on faculty and staff compensation in this request. And other fixed cost increases; new building operating costs, journal subscriptions, for example, unfunded compliance mandates,” Johnsen said. “We take these extremely seriously.”

The proposed request is just shy of $4 million more than last year’s request to the legislature and about $27 million more than was actually appropriated for the current operating budget.

The Board of Regents plans to finalize its budget requests to the legislature at its November meeting.