On January 22, Governor Bill Walker unveiled new operating and capital budgets to the public and submitted them to the legislature. Overall, state spending has been cut by around 5 percent, and many departments have received somewhat large cuts, including a total cut to the Alaska Aerospace Corporation. Walker even went so far to say that if oil prices didn’t rebound, the state would need to begin discussion on new tax policies.
By contrast, the University of Alaska system has received a relatively low cut, down 2.4 percent from this current fiscal year. However, several factors can add to that statistic.
“This number does not include some increased costs that UA will be expected to cover (such as pay raises, new building operating costs, and utilities increases), which will make the effective budget reduction much higher than 2.4 percent,” said Chris Christensen, the Associate Vice President of State Relations from the University of Alaska.
Chris Turletes, UAA’s Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities and Campus Services, had many things to say about the Governor’s FY16 budget.
“From the facilities perspective, it’s a triple whammy,” said Turletes. “No capital budget means no new construction and very limited renewal funding – which means renewal projects that fix the infrastructure and building systems, like heating, lighting, elevators, and roofs, will have to wait another year or more before we get to them.”
Turletes also pointed out that the budget didn’t include many funds required to fund operation of many of UAA’s new buildings, like the Alaska Airlines Center or the upcoming Engineering Building. In addition, with rising utility costs, students can expect reduced Seawolf Shuttle service, cooler and warmer indoor temperatures in the winter and summer respectively, fewer student employees, and more temporary repairs. While the UA system formulates a financial plan for the next fiscal year, all of these things are on the table.
While it seems harsh, Turletes hopes students and faculty will persevere.
“The campus community can help by conserving the use of UAA’s energy, cleaning up after themselves, and reporting emergency conditions to Facilities.”
Turletes also encourages the community to contact the Governor’s office to ask for support for the UA system’s own operating budget.