Budget update: April 8, 2020

April 8, 2020

Tori Tragis

— by Dan White, chancellor

The UA Board of Regents (BoR) held an emergency audit committee meeting on Saturday, April 4, 2020. The agenda focused on the current and projected financial position of the university along with looking at available resources. With COVID-19 on the forefront of discussion, it is changing how we operate. We are tracking financial impacts to the budget and what it means to UAF’s revenues and expenditures. The State of Alaska’s Office of Management and Budget has also requested that the university report weekly on COVID-19 financial impacts.

As COVID-19 impacts our financial ability, it is also making us all think about new ways to operate and communicate. We are now forced to transform how we do business but also have an opportunity in front of us to shape our future in new and different ways. UAF has the lowest unrestricted fund balance (UFB) in the system, providing us the fewest degrees of freedom, but due to access to some “one-time” resources, we are able to strategically approach the plan for our future. I will be meeting with the Provost and Vice Chancellors this afternoon to lay out a plan for University-wide thinking about our path forward. As I think about the expedited administrative review report, the one thing that stuck out was the repeated call to open a dialogue about UAF’s path forward. That was before COVID-19.

In the meantime, part of our transformation will mean reductions to non-academic resources to include administration. As part of the review for administrative reductions, I will use the Expedited Administrative Review Committee report (PDF), which is available on my website for feedback through April 12, 2020. As mentioned in the April 1 budget column, the report draws attention to many things, but overall the consensus was to establish a shared services center. Six proposals were submitted, and they all brought forward great ideas. Two proposals, however, were closer to the call for service that was requested. I have reached out to the two units that submitted these proposals and provided additional guidance requesting that they expand on their initial effort and incorporate some ideas that were received. The units have until April 20 to expand on their shared services. Once received, I will post the new proposal for feedback to the campus community. 

Before going into recess on March 30, the Legislature submitted a budget to the Governor that includes $289.5 million in unrestricted general funds (UGF) for the University of Alaska. This was $12.5 million below the current year, but $12.5 million above the compact agreement. Yesterday the Governor vetoed that action, choosing to stay with the reductions laid out in the compact. Even with this veto, however, the Legislature’s three-quarter vote on the constitutional budget reserve ensures a “reverse sweep” will occur on July 1, guaranteeing that fund balances swept at the end of the fiscal year are returned. This includes the Higher Education Investment Fund, which is the funding source for the WWAMI program, Alaska Performance Scholarships and the needs-based Alaska Education Grant. That is good news.

Moving forward, the Board of Regents Audit Committee will meet again on Tuesday, April 14 at 8am. In this meeting the Chancellors will be asked to share additional details on next year and the following year’s budget planning. This meeting will be followed by an Academic and Student Affairs meeting to discuss the expedited program review. The BoR has also added emergency full board meetings every Friday through April from 8am to 9am to discuss the University’s COVID-19 response. 

BOR April schedule:

  • April 10, 2020 - Special Meeting of the Full Board / Audio Conference

  • April 13-14, 2020 - Special Meeting of the Academic and Student Affairs Committee / Audio Conference

  • April 14, 2020 - Special Meeting of the Audit Committee / Audio Conference

  • April 17, 2020 - Special Meeting of the Full Board / Audio Conference

  • April 24, 2020 - Special Meeting of the Full Board / Audio Conference

I encourage you, if able, to listen in to the BoR meetings. They provide a good look at the questions being asked of leadership and how we move forward through the uncertainty we face ahead. As always, as additional budget details are released, I will provide updates. 

Thank you for choosing UAF. Be well.