Rainbow

A rainbow illuminates the sky behind the University of Alaska Museum of the North Monday morning, November 19, 2018.

A “step-down” approach to state funding for the University of Alaska, designed by members of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration and announced by the governor’s office Friday, seeks to split the governor’s proposed budget cuts to the university into two years of reductions instead of just one. But the plan would also eliminate state funding for research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks as well as state funding for the UA Museum of the North.

In a one-page document shared with reporters and university officials, the Office of Management and Budget outlines that $85 million is to be cut from the UA’s budget this year — rather than the more than $130 million proposed by Dunleavy in June — but only on the condition that the university administer the budget cuts in very specific areas. 

One of the more notable stipulations is a $35 million cut to UA research, $20 million of which is to be cut directly from UAF. Another $1 million is to be cut from the UA Museum of the North. 

Other targeted cuts for the current fiscal year, which began July 1, include a $9.2 million cut to UAF and University of Alaska Anchorage athletics, a $792,600 to Fairbanks’ public radio and TV station KUAC FM 89.9 and TV 9 and a $959,600 cut to the UAA Small Business Development Center. 

The OMB document also included suggestions on how to make up the lost funding. 

For example, it was proposed that UAF research make up the $20 million by first liquidating savings reserves before fully restoring to private, corporate and federal funding. Similarly, it was proposed that UAF and UAA athletics make up the $9.2 million in “sales and fundraising,” that KUAC make up the $792,600 in “donations and fundraising” and the UAF Museum of the North make up $1 million in “fees,” the last feat of which Museum Director Pat Druckenmiller told the Anchorage Daily News was impossible. 

“No, 100% no,” Druckenmiller told the ADN.

The governor’s plan also designates that the university would be required to cut $54 million in “overhead” over a two year span, beginning now.

A suggested area of savings is the consolidation of the schools of arts and sciences, which is estimated to cut $12 million, according to the OMB document.

In a statement provided to reporters from Dunleavy spokesman Matt Shuckerow, the governor’s office maintains that the administration has been working to devise a plan with university officials. 

“The Office of the Governor and the University of Alaska have been working together on a path forward and a proposed timeline for inevitable changes and consolidations,” Shuckerow said. “These discussions include proposals to spread out reductions over a period longer than a year in order to implement necessary reforms.”

The governor told reporters Monday afternoon that the state and the university need to get their spending under control, noting that the state needs to work with the university to get “better outcomes.”

UA President Jim Johnsen released a general statement on the funding issues the university is currently facing, thanking legislators for their work to restore some funding to the university as part of a separate appropriations bill, but did not comment directly on the governor’s two-year approach. 

The Board of Regents will hear the governor’s plan from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. during its Tuesday meeting at the University of Alaska Anchorage. The meeting will be livestreamed at www.alaska.edu/bor/live

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMPolitics.