UAF starts layoffs due to budget, power plant prep begins

FAIRBANKS (AP) — A reduction in state funding combined with rising fixed costs will force layoffs at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The university said about 40 positions will have to be eliminated to help make up for a $12 million budget deficit. Officials hope not filling open positions will take the brunt of the layoffs, but some pink slips are going out, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported July 16.

The university had little choice since it’s a “service-intensive, people-intensive operation,” said Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Pat Pitney.

The university is instituting across-the-board cuts of 3 percent to 6 percent to all academic units, and that will translate to lost jobs.

The university employs about 2,000 people, mostly in Fairbanks. There are about 100 positions that naturally open up every year, and UAF hopes attrition will help the layoff situation.

However, Pitney said some reductions will need to be more targeted.

“There’s no way we can meet this reduction without 40 or 50 fewer people,” Pitney said.

More layoffs may be needed as the budget cuts are finalized.

Among positions considered safe are those in growing programs that can’t afford any job losses. Approximately 35 percent of the campus positions are funded by outside grants, which offer a buffer to budget problems.

The statewide University of Alaska system also is facing a 4 percent budget cut, which is about $1.4 million. Other campuses in Anchorage and Juneau also are facing reductions.

UA spokeswoman Kate Wattum said a review will be conducted of university operations to find places to streamline.

Greenhouse to be dismantled for power plant

UAF needs to find a new home for the nearly 25,000 seedlings growing in its greenhouse, which are used every year to beautify campus.

The 2,700-square-foot greenhouse and an adjacent vegetable garden have to be moved now that the Legislature has provided $245 million for a new coal-fired power plant.

“Now that we have funding for the new heat and power plant, it needs to move,” said Scott Bell, the associate vice chancellor for Facilities Services at UAF.

The greenhouse should be dismantled next month, when work begins on the new power plant. There are no layoffs anticipated because of the loss of the greenhouse.

Pieces of the existing greenhouse will either be sold as surplus material or used on other campus buildings.

The greenhouse has been used from February to May, growing flowers used to decorate the campus.

Bell said there are cost benefits for the university to grow that many of the flowers from seeds, and is hopeful that there will be space in the university’s research greenhouses to offset the loss of the facility.

The vegetable garden, which provides greens for both food services and student groups, also has to be relocated, possibly to the university’s farm plots.

A spokeswoman for the School of Natural Resources and Extension said officials plan to meet this week to discuss that possibility.

07/16/2014 - 1:31pm