Striking a relieved but somber tone, University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen presented the university’s fiscal year 2018 budget to the UA Board of Regents at its special meeting today.
On Wednesday, the legislative operating budget conference committee set the university’s operating budget at $317 million unrestricted general funds, an $8 million cut from the university’s fiscal 2017 operating budget.
“This is not a time for high-fives,” Johnsen said. “This is more a time for relief because the cut could have been even deeper, and now we must focus on the hard work ahead.”
Johnsen addressed the university’s $317 million budget scenario, which would leave an $11 million budget gap factoring in fixed cost increases. The university’s plan to address the gap will rely on continued reductions and reallocations while maintaining investment in strategic priorities including aggressive marketing, recruitment and retention programs to increase student enrollment; research; workforce/online program development; and process automation.
Even during lean budget times, 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.”
Regents also approved a budget contingency option in the unlikely event that a state operating budget is not passed by July 1, authorizing Johnsen to receive an advance on the fiscal 2018 appropriation from the state Office of Management and Budget. The authorization is necessary in order to maintain constitutionally and legally mandated university functions if the budget impasse were to continue into fiscal 2018.
Regents expressed gratitude to the administration for its leadership and noted the importance of community support during the difficult budget process.
“I’d like to thank President Johnsen and his team for an incredible job through this session. (Johnsen’s) leadership and efforts to build the university by engaging staff, faculty, students and the community are invaluable,” said Board Chair Gloria O’Neill.
“I’m pleased with the (budget) progress being made and I’m hopeful this number is where it lands. A lot of work has gone into this. There’s a lot of community support for our university, and we need to make sure everyone realizes how important the university is to our communities and our state,” said Regent Sheri Buretta.
Regents will convene again on June 27 to approve the university’s fiscal 2018 operating budget once it is passed by the Legislature. The university’s capital budget is still uncertain pending legislative action, and regents will convene to address that item at a later date.
All board meeting agendas and documents are available online at http://www.alaska.edu/bor/agen
For more information, contact Roberta Graham, UA system associate vice president of public affairs, at 907-360-2416 (cell).