More program cuts expected at UA make up $8 million budget reduction

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - An official with the University of Alaska Anchorage was finally able to make a simple promise in front of his staff, students and faculty on Friday.

“There will be no interruption of service from June 30 to July 1,” announced Interim Vice chancellor Patrick Shier at a town hall addressing the budget.

Although the meeting was originally scheduled to discuss “a variety of scenarios” in the case of a state government shutdown at the end of the fiscal year, a compromise at the capitol lead to the passage of an operating budget and funding higher education for FY 2018.

The UA system was cut by $8 million compared to last year. It’s a compromise between the House’s plan to flat-fund the UA system, and the Senate’s plan to cut $22 million.

Although the budget’s $317 million funding is far from the university’s proposal of $341 million, UA officials said it’s a workable figure.

“The greatest value for me was there was a level of certainty now that is necessary for us to put a fine point on some of the plans we have been looking at internally,” said Shier.

Shier said an $8 million cut to the UA system will be added to $3 million of fixed cost increases for the upcoming fiscal year. The $11 million hole will be filled by $5 million in reallocation between departments, and $6 million in program and service reductions.

The cuts will be most heavily shouldered by UAF and UAA, taking about $5 million in reductions between the two schools.

In a press release, UA president Jim Johnsen said, “We’ve got to keep investing in our high priorities, otherwise the downward spiral keeps going. We’ve got to take a deep breath, manage through these reductions, then focus on our investments and growth.”

It’s unclear how the budget cuts will immediately impact operations, but UAA officials promise seamless operations into the fall semester.

“A lot of students a lot of staff and faculty have been feeling uncertain with the budget situation,” said UAA Student Body President Alec Burris. “With the legislature passing it, I think we brought a level of certainty to the students staff and faculty at the three universities.”

The fight for funding is not over yet. UA President Johnsen is continuing to lobby the legislature to move on a capital budget and UA’s request for $5 million to pay for building maintenance.

“There's a lot of deferred maintenance that needs to be done here at the university,” said Nile Hamaker, a facilities maintenance and operations employee at UAA. “When you make that kind of investment and you don't take care of it, it's not a good thing,” said Hamaker.

The board of regents is poised to approve the UA’s next operating budget on Tuesday, just four days before the end of the fiscal year.

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