Budget update: March 11, 2020

March 11, 2020

Tori Tragis

— by Dan White, chancellor

Monday evening, President Johnsen sent chancellors guidance on FY 2021 – FY 2022 budget planning. The memo addresses the 2019 compact agreement between Governor Dunleavy and UA Board of Regents Chair Davies. Within this context, the President’s memo lays out planned reductions for FY20 through FY22 of $70 million, along with additional agreements made to fund specific programs, such as the Technical and Vocational Education Program (TVEP) and expansion of dual enrollment. In addition, the system office is continuing to investigate the possibility of a capital budget this year to help fund facility deferred maintenance and debt service that have previously been supported by our operating funds. Being able to move some deferred maintenance and debt service to capital funds would make a significant positive impact on our operating budget.

In addition to the targeted reductions in the compact, the president touched on additional key guidance points. First, universities will be required to stay within the established unreserved fund balance (UFB) guidelines of 2-6% of fund one, but can include these funds as part of our transition to a “new lower base” in FY21 and FY22. Proceeds from new anticipated facility sales “may not be” included as bridge funding due to the volatility and timing of these transactions. Reserve funds from the system office are being considered for possible support to help with transition expenses as campuses make efforts to reduce costs. Lastly, the option of “mandatory unpaid furloughs and/or a suspension of our leave cash-in program” are being considered as additional cost-saving measures during this transition. 

As for reductions in FY21 and FY22, the President’s memo outlines UAF’s state unrestricted general fund (UGF) cut at approximately $22.2 million plus $5.1 million in compensation adjustments for a total of $27.3 million over the next two years. This will be added to the unmet budget gap in FY20, for which we use one-time sources as bridge funding.

In FY20, UAF was required to reduce and reallocate a combined total of $24 million. A portion of the reallocation remained at UAF in the form of strategic initiatives but most of it went to the budget gap and to compensation increases that essentially increased the overall gap. Through your efforts we were able to close the budget gap to $7 million, which we will cover using strategic budget reserves at UAF. We planned this approach from early on as it allowed us to be a little more strategic. This approach was discussed in previous budget columns.  The $7 million base budget gap that we covered with one-time funds will be addressed in FY21.

Per the compact, the new UGF reductions for FY21 were projected to be $12.3 million. To meet this reduction, I asked vice chancellors to plan for a 15% decrease to their UGF. For some VCs this was passed on to units equally. For others it was distributed to units in different percentages to units. In either event, the 15% guidance was inclusive of the compensation increase. This is the same way that the reductions and compensation were handled in FY20. So in effect, for most departments, the 15% planned reduction will be comprised of a 12.5% base reduction plus the 2.5% needed for compensation increases. 

If implemented, current recommendations from the expedited academic review committees will contribute to base reductions in FY21. Additionally, we expect the administrative review process to help with the base reduction, although the recommendations of the administrative review committee are not yet complete.

As part of UAF’s own step-down approach between FY20 and FY22, UAF will use one-time funds and strategic reserves to bridge gaps. If we are also able to obtain debt relief, receive new deferred maintenance funding, generate new revenue from land and/or building leases, and increase enrollment and/or increase tuition revenue, these sources will also be used to help bridge funding as we approach funding levels in the budget compact.

The UAF step-down approach between FY20 and FY22 and beyond allows us to more thoughtfully continue with our commitment of some strategic investment areas. It also allows us to implement shared services business models, explore differentiated tuition, and complete our administrative review process. 

As mentioned in my Monday announcement on expedited academic program review, I will hold a listening session on the program review recommendations next Thursday, March 19th from 5pm to 6pm in the Wood Center Ballroom. This will be an opportunity to express your views to me and other UAF leadership. I will need to finalize my program recommendations to President Johnsen on March 23.  The event will be web-streamed with live captioning available

Thank you for choosing UAF.