Wednesday, June 19, 2013
University of Alaska Fairbanks Spared Severe Budget Cuts
Gov. Sean Parnell’s capital budget vetoes Wednesday sliced deep into mid-range plans by the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
FAIRBANKS — Gov. Sean Parnell’s capital budget vetoes Wednesday sliced deep into mid-range plans by the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
But the cuts stuck largely to the campus’s ability to borrow — a power guarded by state government — and left promises of cash relatively untouched. A vice chancellor said the result will let campus university system managers tackle a maintenance backlog in Fairbanks and across the state.
The $2.8 billion statewide capital budget still includes room for around $56 million in construction work on campus, although the university would need to borrow — bond — more than half that amount.
The money will cover a slate of major projects, including $17 million of electrical rewiring and
$1.9 million to keep the campus power plant running.
But Parnell’s budget vetoes eat into plans for the next two or three years, according to a list of priorities provided by campus directors.
Managers hope borrowing plans can help them overhaul the Patty Center, replace plumbing at Bartlett Hall, tackle maintenance problems in West Ridge buildings and extend the electrical work, according to a funding plan from Pat Pitney, a vice chancellor.
Karen Rehfeld, Parnell’s budget director, said the university’s borrowing allowance will still be enough to let the system “move forward this year.”
“(W)e know we will continue to work with the UA on funding (deferred maintenance) in the next budget,” she told the Daily News-Miner by email. The cuts were part of $400 million Parnell carved from the capital budget.
The Legislature in May proposed sending the broader, statewide University of Alaska system, including UAF, $37.5 million in cash for deferred maintenance projects and the $100 million to borrow for similar work in the coming three years. The Fairbanks campus would have gotten more than half of each bite; that proportion remains for the cash and bonding authority left after the governor’s Wednesday vetoes.
High on UAF’s to-do list is a rebuild of its coal power plant, which also heats the campus through an underground district heating system. Until the campus can fund a do-over, it will use money, including parts of this year’s capital grants, to keep the plant running as is.
“We’re making the progress we need to make,” Pitney said of the final budget’s space for work on campus. “More funding only helps. We’re moving.”