Budget update: Oct. 23

October 23, 2019

Tori Tragis

— by Dan White, chancellor

Last week, Fairbanks was named one of the top 10 college towns in the United States. In their profile, Livability and ABODO Apartments wrote that “People have to stick together in Alaska, and that same sense of community and teamwork carries through to students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, home of the Nanooks.” I hope this rings as true for you. I’ve been reflecting on the importance of trust and support of each other at UAF, and offer great appreciation for faculty, staff, and students who today and in the future will stick together as we navigate today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. I’d like to expand on that context as we discuss our approach to budget planning at UAF.

In last week’s column, I discussed the context for our FY20 and FY21 budgets. Specifically, we’re using one-time savings and land/facility sales to bridge this year, allowing time for FY21 planning and consideration. Next year we will need to make base cuts that reflect both this year’s reduction and the reduction outlined in the compact between the Board of Regents and the Governor. I shared a few ideas for base reductions for broad feedback, and I appreciate the thoughtful comments I’ve received so far. Please keep them coming!

There are several things we don’t yet know about our FY21 budget. We don’t know what the legislature will do, we don’t know how the governor may respond, and we don’t know what methodology will be used for distributing cuts and potential reallocations for investments within the university system. What we do know is that we can’t and won’t plan and prioritize without shared governance.

At UAF, shared governance in budget planning begins with the Planning and Budget Committee, a rotating group made up of representatives from across our university and including delegates from governance groups. Provost Anupma Prakash and Vice Chancellor Julie Queen chaired this year’s committee, which prioritized areas for strategic investment within UAF’s budget in Spring. Additional strategic investments may be identified by the Board of Regents and President. In past years, those investments have been funded by an additional pullback of base funding above the state general fund reductions.

I am asking the provost, vice chancellors, and executive officer to meet next week to outline a starting strategy for FY21 reductions. This will first go to the Chancellor’s Cabinet for review. Chancellor’s Cabinet is made up of Vice Chancellors, a suite of unit directors, and faculty, staff and student governance leaders. Since the first of these two meetings will be next Tuesday I will report on our discussion in the budget column next Wednesday. Chancellor’s Cabinet meets next on November 11, 2019. Our first community discussion of planning approaches for FY21 will be the open forum on budget, November 21 in the Wood Center Ballroom.

While we start planning internally for reductions, the system office is preparing the FY21 budget request to go to the Board of Regents (BOR) in November for their review and approval. Typically the BOR submits its budget request to the governor by December so that he can incorporate it into his full budget and submit that to the legislature for the start of their regular session. For FY21, as part of the compact, the BOR will be submitting a budget to the governor that represents a $25 million reduction to state general fund support. On a pro-rata basis, UAF’s share of that cut would be $12.5 million, as it was this year, plus directed reallocations for specific reinvestment and fixed cost increases. The methodology for applying the proposed FY21 cut within UA is not yet determined, and the chosen approach does impact our bottom line.

I trust and hope that as we engage in this planning process, we will do so with the sense of community and teamwork. Next week I will lay out the initial thinking of the UAF leadership on a go-forward plan. Thank you for choosing UAF.