Budget update: Jan. 29, 2020

January 29, 2020

Tori Tragis

— by Dan White, chancellor

In December, I issued guidance to vice chancellors to plan for a 15% reduction in their FY21 general fund budgets. There have been a number of questions since the Board’s budget was passed regarding whether this 15% guidance includes or does not include the reallocation needed for compensation or if that would be in addition to the 15% targets. At this time, the 15% planning is inclusive of compensation and market adjustments and includes strategic initiatives, assuming the compensation and strategic initiative reallocations remain. Following the recent board meeting there was some indication that the reallocations for strategic initiatives may be reconsidered. 

In recent budget columns, I’ve mentioned the need to expand the use of shared services. From my perspective, this strategy is not designed to eliminate positions, but rather to relieve pressure on very thinly staffed offices. A shared services model can bridge the gap to cover business operations in areas that have been spread thin over the last few years. Staff reductions university wide have left departments in tenuous situations, where there is often no back up. Should someone leave their position or need to take leave, and that one person is juggling a number of business operation functions there is real risk to business continuity. The intention of UAF’s shared services strategy is to provide much needed business services to all departments. This will also increase shared best practices, increased collaboration between units, and an increased wellness.   

My request for proposals for shared service centers was originally February 14. That has been extended to February 28 due to staff demands for the expedited administrative review reports.  Please submit proposals directly to Samara Taber, Executive Officer at setaber@alaska.edu or to me. 

We continue to make headway in reducing our footprint and reducing land costs and leases, while ensuring we are meeting our land grant mission. The sale of the Administrative Services Center (ASC) is in the final stages, for a total sale of over $1M. We are working on public noticing for the sale or lease of the Orca and Rae buildings in Seward, as well as an adjacent parking lot. This does not obligate UAF to sell these properties, but does allow us to evaluate our options. 

Using guidance from our strategic plan to grow enrollment, modernize the student experience, and reduce money spent on deferred maintenance, I am looking into how we build a public private partnership (P3) to replace our outdated dorms that are expensive to operate and laden with deferred maintenance with more efficient and more modern residence halls. This is part of a larger plan to revamp our student experience to drive costs down and enrollment up. Public private partnerships around residence halls, food service, parking, and recreation have been used across the country at universities like ours that needed to eliminate expensive outdated facilities and replace them with higher performing and more efficient buildings. P3s have been used in similar budget situations as ours where new capital was not available from the state to make this transition. This effort is part of our masterplan that will be up for the board’s consideration in February. More to come as we learn more about the P3 opportunities.

Thank you to all those who were able to join the strategic planning forum last week and for all you do for this great university.

Thank you for choosing UAF.