University of Alaska campuses foresee job cuts due to looming $26 million budget gap

FAIRBANKS -- The University of Alaska Fairbanks is bracing for the loss of about 100 positions during the next fiscal year, many through attrition, while additional university job cuts and other reductions are expected at UA campuses statewide to deal with a looming $26 million budget gap.

The state Legislature and the governor are poised to trim university funding, leaving UA budget planners to adjust operations for the fiscal year starting in July. The university figures it needs $394 million from the Legislature to fund operations, deal with inflation and maintain services, while the latest number on the table in Juneau is $368 million.

The campuses are reviewing a range of plans to cut travel, delay hiring, trim programs and take other steps to reduce costs, UA officials said. Final details are expected this spring.

The chancellors at the University of Alaska Anchorage and the University of Alaska Southeast said they don't know how many jobs might be lost, but those branches face budget cuts proportional to those at UAF. The budget is before the Senate Finance Committee this week for amendments. Among dozens of options suggested for review by a UAF budget committee are:

• Keeping vacant positions open four months instead of three;

• Reducing or eliminating the annual leave cash-out program;

• Extending winter break;


• Putting more employees on 11-month contracts;

• Moving to a 37.5-hour work week;

• Outsourcing services such as campus housing, printing and mail;

• Eliminating the proposed veterinary medicine program;

• Reducing marketing;

• Reducing or consolidating three of the farm properties owned by UAF, including one in Palmer.

UAA Chancellor Tom Case is preparing for a general fund cut of about 7 percent. UAS Chancellor John Pugh is looking at reducing positions through attrition, reducing travel, eliminating some contracts and cutting services and programs. UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers said the basic issue is that if the Legislature provided the same amount of money for the next fiscal year as it had for this fiscal year, about $377 million for the entire system, the university could not maintain the same level of programs and services.

"In normal budget years, the budgeted amount for UA is increased to offset expected inflation in key fixed-cost areas. This year, it is proposed that the budget will include a smaller-than-usual inflation cost increase," he said. "From UAF's perspective, level funding means we have to make reductions somewhere to keep up with the inflation increases in our fixed-cost areas." He expects those reductions, starting in July, will total $14 million.

Senate action on the operating budget will be followed by a conference committee with the House to work out differences.

Dermot Cole

Former ADN columnist Dermot Cole is a longtime reporter, editor and author.