University of Alaska budget cuts mean closures for both the Anchorage and Sitka Cooperative Extension offices.
University of Alaska Fairbanks Interim Chancellor Mike Powers approved the closures Monday, according to UAF Spokeswoman Marmian Grimes. The offices are expected to close by the end of October.
The university operates 12 extension offices in communities across the state. The Alaska extensions provide classes and information related to agriculture, gardening, family development, 4-H and youth development.
Grimes said Cooperative Extension is expected to face a $1 million cut in state funding this year, on top of another $2 million slashed from the budget over the three previous years.
She said a committee of Cooperative Extension staff and faculty spent the last six months trying to come up with ways to minimize the impact of the cuts. Of the agency's $8.4 million budget, approximately $4.7 comes from state funding.
Grimes said as the legislative session progressed, the cuts became worse, and the committee ultimately recommended shutting down the two offices.
Just the rent on the Anchorage office is about $250,000 a year, Grimes said. The committee also felt Anchorage has more options and resources for services than other communities in the state.
"They felt that with the extension's history of serving underserved populations it made sense to go this route," Grimes said.
The Anchorage office employs 12 people and the Sitka office employs one. Grimes said in Anchorage one employee was retiring and another was laid off before the decision. She said the university would work with the remaining employees to find positions within the university if available.
Several positions within the office are also grant-funded and Grimes said the university will look in the coming months to find space for those positions.
She said the Palmer extension office will remain open under the current plan.
"We recognize that this is definitely a loss for Anchorage and the extension organization," Grimes said. "It's never an easy decision when we have to look at cutting this amount of money out of the budget. It does affect services."