UA prepares to lose millions in state funding

JUNEAU (AP) — A slump in oil prices has officials looking at the amount and impact of a deep cut in the University of Alaska budget.

Gov. Bill Walker announced a plan to cut $16 million from the budget, while North Pole Republican Rep. Tammie Wilson suggested a bigger reduction of $63 million, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

The current budget is $351 million.

Wilson, the finance subcommittee chair, said during a Thursday meeting that her proposal does not include funding for research or athletics because not all legislators agree the state should shoulder those costs.

The subcommittee is expected to vote on a funding plan Tuesday.

University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen told the Board of Regents Friday that cuts would mean a considerable program reduction and could result in 450 to 500 fewer university positions.

Regent Kenneth Fisher said at least a year’s notice is required layoff those in tenured positions.

Johnsen said there could be long-term damage if cuts force the university system, a campus or program to declare financial exigency, which many see as similar to bankruptcy.

“While legally, technically it’s different than Chapter 11 (bankruptcy) I think in most people’s eyes it’s very similar,” he said. “We’d be sending a very negative message out to the Alaska community if we took that approach. That will be a tough decision but one that would come to this body before it’s ever made.”

He said he was confident the legislature would come back with a number that’s north of $288 million.

“How far north, I’m not sure,” he said.

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