KPC may see impact from state level cuts
With the state of Alaska proposing millions in cuts to the University of Alaska’s 2017 budget, the Kenai Peninsula College may lose up to $1.27 million in the process.
Gov. Bill Walker’s FY17 UA budget includes $16 million in reductions, and an even heavier hit came most recently from Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole. The House UA Budget Subcommittee will vote Tuesday evening on her proposed budget that includes $63 million in reductions.
“UA has been reducing its budget for the last two years and has deleted a number of programs and positions across the system,” said KPC Director Gary Turner. “Former President (Pat) Gamble said about a year ago that we had cut the fat and were then starting to cut the muscle. Some will say that reducing even more will be like cutting bone.”
In early February, Turner said he, along with administrators at all UA sites, were asked how they would reduce spending by 7.3 percent next year. That would equate to $667,600 for KPC, he said.
That number had risen since President Jim Johnsen approved the university’s budget in early November, which included a 7.6 percent funding increase he requested from the state. Soon after, the state Office of Management and Budget said the UA system could expect to have to cut as much as 4.5 percent next year.
Turner said he has also been told he may have to cut up to 10 percent of his total budget, a number the college hasn’t faced since the late 1980s.
Wilson’s proposal was surprising. However, Turner said nothing is set just yet.
“I am not going to deal in hypotheticals since the university budget must still get through other committees and the number proposed by Rep. Wilson is just preliminary,” Turner said.
Turner has been preparing to reduce the KPC budget for a while. He formed the KPC Executive Committee one year ago, which includes himself and six other senior staff, who have reviewed programs, services and positions.
The last committee meeting was held on Feb. 18, and next meeting will be held on March 10, he said.
“At this point, we have been looking more toward reduction of services versus program cuts,” Turner said. “We hope to not completely cut any academic, administrative or campus services programs. As we have for the last two years, we will continue to scrutinize any positions that become vacant due to a resignation or retirement.”
Turner said University of Alaska Anchorage Chancellor Lt. Gen. Tom Case must now approve all new hires, with a few exceptions.
Turner said noticeable impacts might be longer wait times, or reduced hours in services for students and employees. Fewer courses or sections of courses may be offered, he said.
Long-term impacts are possible, but not guaranteed.
“Once reductions have been made a university sometimes doesn’t get increased funding when the economy gets better,” Turner said.
KPC’s 2016 authorized operating budget is $17 million, with nearly $7.65 million coming from the state, Turner said in a previous Clarion interview. Last year, the Kenai Peninsula Borough allocated $726,987 to KPC, which is what Turner said he is requesting again this year.
The bulk of the remaining annual expenses are made up in tuition fees.
Turner said the KPC Council and KPC Kachemak Bay Advisory Board have submitted resolutions that support Walker’s budget, and he has discussed his concerns about impacts cuts will have on KPC with the Kenai Peninsula legislative delegation.
“We are one of the primary economic engines for Alaska,” Turner said. “Fully funding the university is an investment in Alaska’s future and our students will provide the future brain capital of our state. You need a strong university to have a strong state.”
Reach Kelly Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org.