Budget update: June 10, 2020

June 10, 2020

Tori Tragis

— by Dan White, chancellor

Last week was a busy week. The UA Board of Regents (BOR) met on June 4 and 5 and had a very full agenda, including the FY21 budget and the motion to consider merger of UAS into UAF. Meanwhile UAF financial staff in colleges or departments were hard at work completing continuation budgets for FY21. 

I discussed the board meeting in a universitywide communication on Saturday following the meeting so will not review that here. However, I do want to discuss compensation a bit as I know that is on everyone’s minds. 

First, the 1% general compensation increase is in place for FY21. The board kept this increase out of interest for all employees to be treated equally, and it had already been negotiated with the faculty union. The market increases, on the other hand, were delayed. I realize that this is disappointing for many who received notices that their salaries were determined to be below the target (90% of market). It is my understanding that this is a suspension of the market increases and not termination of the program. I anticipate more communications from UA HR on the application of the 1% general increase soon. In President Johnsen’s slides, the FY22 budget forecast also postponed the market increase as an outlook. The Board of Regents has not debated or voted on the FY22 budget. 

Many of the changes that the board approved were already built into the continuation budgets when Financial Services distributed them. I provided guidance at the end of May asking Vice Chancellors (VCs) to plan for a 12.5% general fund (GF) reduction for FY21 rather than the previous target of 15%. VCs were given the ability to apply these cuts across their units, which have not impacted all areas equally. UAF was also able to provide a small supplement of funding, to help cover the cost of employee benefit rate increases. If any additional unresolved or outstanding items exist after the budget is submitted to the system office, Financial Services will manage adjustments to the budget as we move into FY21. 

Outside of getting ready for FY21, Financial Services is closing out FY20. UAF’s unrestricted fund balance (UFB) projection from the April management report is just under $10 million, which is above the 2% UFB guidance set by the system office. This was a helpful turnaround in comparison to our January UFB projection, which was under the 2% guidance. UAF unit leaders and fund managers have worked hard to bring the UFB balances up and mitigate possible deficits. Good work to all for sharpening their projections in the midst of COVID-19, to create savings where operations changed, or to limit spending if a deficit situation was looming.

Moving into FY21, UAF Financial Services will be updating UFB guidance as a result of working to increase our UFB by the end of FY22 from 2% (current guidelines) to 4%. We plan to change our guidelines by encouraging units to increase UFB in FY21. Units should work with their VCs and Financial Services if they sense they need more in-depth discussions about UFB management. VC for Administrative Services Julie Queen or AVC for Financial Services Amanda Wall will be reaching out with more details on UFB guidance in the near future. 

Speaking of costs, and in the context of our important and ongoing discussions of institutional bias, I was made aware this morning of an article titled, “The cost of code-switching.” Code-switching refers to the action whereby individuals switch the way they engage with others in an effort to reduce discrimination or bias against themselves. Code-switching has a cost to the individual and to the institution. It hurts individual well-being and it hurts productivity. 

Overall the message is, valuing diversity is not enough to reduce discrimination towards minorities. What we must do is focus on creating inclusive environments where people do not feel that they have to code-switch. That means environments that work for everyone, not environments that work for just some of us. 

Each of us has a role. UAF’s Chief Diversity Officer and Director of the Office of Equity and Compliance Margo Griffith is working across campus on a strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion at UAF. Creating inclusive environments that do not bear the cost of code-switching is an institutional imperative but also something each of us can affect. I cannot determine what an inclusive environment means to you but you can tell me and I can listen, and act. I encourage you to engage in this conversation. I am.

In order to be the efficient operation that we all want, we need everyone, we want everyone, and everyone should be allowed to be themselves in an environment that is inclusive for all of us. It is about you and us. You belong at UAF and UAF belongs to you.

Thank you for choosing UAF.