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University of Alaska regents to consider $963 million spending plan

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Posted: Monday, November 5, 2012 11:49 pm | Updated: 11:54 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — The University of Alaska Board of Regents on Wednesday will consider a proposed $963 million spending plan at its meeting in Anchorage, a hike of 4.2 percent from this year’s budget.

The operating budget, which would be for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2013, calls for a $384 million state contribution. The remaining funds would come largely from a combination of tuition, fees and federal grants.

UA Associate Vice President Michelle Rizk said the increases in the proposed budget come, in part, from raises included in negotiated contracts and higher utility costs. Operating a major new facility, the life sciences building at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, will also to add to the increase.

A memo introducing the budget said the proposal is designed “to maintain tight budget discipline while limiting growth, and yet preserving and investing in infrastructure necessary to operate and develop Alaska’s economy.”

The budget plan calls for a 5.5 percent increase in the state contribution, with a 3.4 percent increase from other sources. The higher state contribution is due partly to a lower-than-typical tuition hike at UA, Rizk said. A tuition increase of 2 percent is planned for fiscal year 2014, unlike most recent years, when hikes of 5 percent to 7 percent were budgeted.

“For the fixed-cost increases, we try to cover half of the cost (from sources other than the state), to the degree possible,” Rizk said. “When you have a major facility like the life sciences building, you may need to ask for a bigger state contribution.”

The proposed capital budget includes the remaining $108.9 million needed to complete new engineering buildings at the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses. The Legislature approved $100 million for the first phase of that project earlier this year.

The engineering buildings are the only new facilities included in the capital budget. It also includes $37.5 million toward deferred maintenance, as well as $75 million for reducing the maintenance backlog.

The highlight of the maintenance budget is $22 million that will go toward replacing the aging UAF power plant with a new coal-fired plant. According to the UA capital improvement plan that regents will consider Wednesday, another $175 million will be required to complete the project in the following two years.

For the first time, the operating budget will incorporate overarching themes of UA President Pat Gamble’s Strategic Direction Initiative, a new comprehensive plan for higher education. The plan emphasizes student achievement, partnerships with Alaska schools and industry, research and development and accountability to the people.

If regents approve the budgets, they will be forwarded to Gov. Sean Parnell for consideration. Parnell will release his budget request for UA by Dec. 15.

Only on-site testimony will be taken at the meeting, but it may be viewed by video conference at Room 204 of the Butrovich Building at the UAF campus. A full agenda for the meeting is available online at www.alaska.edu/bor.

Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518.

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