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UA budget underscores student advising for graduation and deferred maintenance

The University of Alaska Board of Regents today approved an overall
budget request for the next fiscal year that emphasizes more and
better student advising and a continuation of the tough battle to
reduce deferred maintenance across the 16-campus UA System.

The FY13 operating budget, which now goes to Gov. Sean Parnell for his
consideration, focuses on high-demand job training in engineering,
health and biomedical fields, teacher education and workforce
development.

The operating budget for UA reflects a number of internal cost-control
measures taken in recent months, including a $7 million cost avoidance
in the employee health-care plan, reductions in certain fixed costs
and an effort to hold down utility cost increases as much as possible.

“I really think the administration is doing a pretty good job of
containing costs,” said Regent Tim Brady of Anchorage.

The regents met for the annual budget meeting at the University of
Alaska Fairbanks campus. Public testimony touched on a wide range of
issues, including strong support from engineering firms for new
engineering buildings at UAA and UAF, which are the top new academic
construction priority in UA’s 10-year capital improvement plan.
Several public and private employers spoke about the need for energy
research for Alaska, which is included in the board’s FY13 capital
request. Still others spoke in favor of a veterinarian school
partnership with Colorado State University, which will come to the
board for consideration in December.

The proposed capital budget continues the UA System’s emphasis on
tackling deferred maintenance, with no new construction projects
proposed for FY13.  Under the capital plan, UA would put $137.5
million toward deferred maintenance, spread out across the system
based on a formula that takes into account building age and other
factors. The capital budget also supports Alaska-focused energy
research, including energy technology testing and development, energy
analysis and fossil fuel research. Arctic oil spill response and ocean
acidification impacts on Alaska fisheries would receive a share of
state funding under the board-endorsed capital request.

The board also gave permission for Mat-Su College to move ahead with
detailed planning and design for the new Valley Center for Arts &
Learning in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, not to exceed $20 million.
Alaska voters endorsed the project in a general obligation bond last
year.

The new building will provide a music classroom, a drama lab,
instrument storage, display areas, study areas and a theater large
enough for 500 people. Mat-Su College enrollment has grown
considerably in recent years, as has the population of the Mat-Su
Borough, but the college can only house about 120 people in one
venue--the cafeteria.  College Director Talis Colberg called the
project “transformational” in allowing the campus to serve as a public
square for the community. The new center provides additional space for
the region’s medical community to conduct training and continuing
education.

The meeting also featured a short performance by Alaska Camerata, a
small ensemble composed mostly of UAF music students conducted by
music professor John Hopkins. The group performed several pieces for
the board during lunch.

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