UA budget decision postponed by regents

The UA budget is first compiled by President Hamilton, it then goes to the Board of Regents for approval before being sent to the governor’s office for a final decision.

This process began on Oct. 30 for the fiscal year 2011 budget. The Regents decided to wait on approving the budget, which asks for $351 million in state funds, in order to further align communications with the governor’s office.

“The regents would like to give the UA administration more time to discuss the budget with the governor and his budget director,” Kate Ripley, UA Director of Public Affairs, said.

In the budget proposal were funds for “strategic areas.” These areas include energy, climate, high demand jobs and student success. The approved budget for 2010 included many of these same strategic areas, ultimately earning $1.8 million for the University out of the $11.8 million allocated in the proposal.

The language in the proposals differs slightly. The aim is to improve preparedness, retention and graduation at the university. In the 2010 proposal this was called “K-12 outreach,” and is titled “STEM initiatives” in the 2011 proposal.

“[They are] repackaged in a way that we hope is better understood, “ Ripley said.

In the past, the regents typically had a budget request that was passed on by the governor, both Tony Knowles and Frank Murkowski followed that practice, reported the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Sarah Palin cut the regent’s budget request the past two years.

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The UAA sports arena was not on the budget proposal for 2011, a change from the $65 million the University asked for in 2010. The university will receive no funding for the arena despite that request in 2010.

“UAA continues to consider the sports arena a priority,” Chancellor Fran Ulmer said.

The regents included less in the 2011 proposal in order to target crucial projects that have been recurrent on the university’s construction list.

The sports arena first appeared on the proposal in 2008. It did not get funding until 2009 when the state allocated $15 million while the University asked for only $1 million.

“The Seawolves’ basketball success likely had much to do with this political support,” said Ripley. “I don’t think this means the sports arena will never receive additional funding, the board is just in a re-evaluation stage and hopes that a trimmed down capital request will have a greater chance of success with the governor and legislature.”

Capitol funding for needs including facility renewal and renovation, new construction and bringing facilities up to appropriate standards and codes has been the priority for several years. In 2010, out of $50 million in the proposal, the state granted UA $3.2 million.

Also on the agenda was a wage increase for student employees at the University. The regents approved a wage increase of 50 cents per hour for students. President Hamilton proposed a 25-cent increase, “but supports the 50 cent increase as well,” according to Ripley.

“Our student workers have gone too long without an increase,” Ripley said.

Student wages have remained the same for the past seven years at UA. The lowest wages need to increase by 25 cents in order to make the minimum wage cut.

Capitol funding, in the past ten years, has favored UAA. UAA and its community campuses have received 76 percent of all new facility funding in the past ten years.

Projects that received this funding included the Integrated Science building and Consortium Library. A Health Sciences building is funded at $46 million for phase one in fiscal year 2009.

The budget proposal, after being approved by the Board of Regents, will be offered to the Legislature in January of 2010.