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.