For Kenai Peninsula College, the question isn’t whether a financial cut is coming, it’s, by how much? Will KPC escape with a minor paper cut, will it be able to make a precision knife slice, or will it suffer a hefty whack from the budget axe?
KPC Director Gary Turner said he doesn’t yet know what the budget will look like for next year, but given the bleak deficit budget the state is facing, he’s preparing for cuts across the University of Alaska System. Last year KPC saw a budget cut of about 4.5 percent. This year, Turner said he’s guessing at a cut of around 7 percent.
“Who knows where it’s going to wind up by the time the governor gets the budget in a couple of months, but we have to plan to be ready,” he said.
Turner said that the leadership team at KPC began serious discussions along those lines last month and will continue to meet and discuss, looking at the four areas in which to approach a budget reduction — increasing revenue, generating new revenue, cutting costs and avoiding costs.
“You have to do a lot of tactical thinking and strategic thinking and we’re doing that. We’re on that path and we will continue to meet like this throughout the semester.”
KPC can’t make large-scale changes on its own, without the Board of Regents — such as increasing tuition or adding a new degree program. But there are some things it can control, from cutting down on copy paper to recruiting and retaining more students in order to increase tuition revenue, and the option Turner hopes can be avoided — cutting positions.
“We’re looking at all those, things from the small things up to the major things, but the challenge we have is that 73 percent of our costs are in personnel.”
KPC is taking a page from Gov. Bill Walker’s website and is requesting suggestions from its community, including faculty, staff, students and the college council. There is a link on the KPC home page to submit budgetary ideas.
“I have a lot of smart people that work for me and work with me, we’re going to do fine.”
Turner said that KPC already is fiscally responsible.
“We manage our money really, really well. And we’re flat, we’re a flat organization — we’re not fat.”
On one hand, having an already fit budget means there aren’t obvious, easy areas of excess to trim, but on the other, it’s valuable experience in belt-tightening.
“I’m confident KPC is going to do well. We are very lean. We’re mean and thin, but we’ll do fine.”
One bit of news Turner doesn’t have to wait on is of the good variety. On Monday, Gov. Walker announced his four nominees for the Board of Regents, including Soldotna’s Lisa Parker.
If approved by the Legislature, Parker, Andy Teuber, of Kodiak, Sheri Buretta, of Anchorage, and John Davies, of Fairbanks will replace four regents whose terms expire Feb. 3.
Regents are tasked with oversight of the entire university system, rather than advocating for just the region from which they hail, but Turner said he thinks it can’t help but be beneficial to have a regent as familiar with community campuses as Parker.
“The regents need to bring a 30,000- to 60,000-foot view of the university, so I don’t think her nomination is going to be something that we can say is going to bring wonderful things to KPC. She’s going to bring wonderful things to the university. But what really helps is her understanding of the rural campuses. She has that understanding going in of the challenges of a small campus and how we deal with them and how well we do. Sometimes that’s not always recognized across the state.”
Parker is the external affairs and government relations manager for Apache Corporation, and before that spent eight years as the government and community relations manager for Agrium. She also was the planning director for the Kenai Peninsula Borough, and served on the KPC College Council for six years.
Her career background makes her all the more interested in ensuring the sustainability of the university system in order to help grow the workforce in Alaska, she said.
“In all the fields that I have worked in here in Alaska, needing Alaskans to work is important.”
Parker is hopeful her nomination will be confirmed so she can get down to the business of helping the university system stay in business.
“It’s a strong university system that we have on a statewide basis and I hope to help continue to maintain that at this point, and in the future help it to grow.”