FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The University of Alaska Board of Regents passed a 2002-2003 budget proposal Friday that will seek a state funding increase of nearly $17 million.
The request of more than $618 million request includes about $218 million in state general fund money and about $400.6 million from other sources.
The current budget total about $553 million.
''We understand that it is another significant request,'' said UA President Mark Hamilton. ''It's what we need to do to serve the needs of the state of Alaska.''
About $9.5 million of the state general fund increase would pay for increases in fixed costs and salaries, said Pat Pitney, director of budget and institutional research. Another $8.3 million in inflation increases would be paid for with other revenue.
Pitney said the rest of the increase will fund new programs and continue or expand programs started in recent years.
Those new programs are in direct response to requests from employers in the state, and by no means represent everything requested, said regents chairman Michael Burns.
''This isn't a wish list. This is a distillation of a wish list,'' Burns said.
The original list of requested programs and other changes from the business community topped $50 million, he said.
''We are trying to respond to the state's needs,'' Burns said. ''It's an amount we think we can responsibly spend.''
If it is not funded, it will mean some of those needs will go by the wayside, Burns said.
''The state is going to have less teachers. The state is going to have less health care workers.''
While the proposal asks the state to pay more, it would allow the university to raise more money on its own, Hamilton said. If the state gives the university the $17 million, he said, the university will generate another $50 million in grants and other funding.
''You are seeing in this budget the results of a maturing university that is regaining very quickly the ability to generate enormous amounts of dollars,'' Hamilton said.
Generally, the Legislature is supportive of university requests for funding, according to Rep. Jim Whitaker, R-Fairbanks.
''However I think it is fair to say that we are going to have a challenge in that this will be the fourth consecutive year of significant increases to the university budget,'' he said. ''For those of us who are convinced that a significant component of economic growth is higher education, we then recognize the necessity of continuing to adequately fund the university.''
That mindset does not apply to all legislators, Whitaker said.
Hamilton also noted that next year's budget puts a strong emphasis on student recruitment and retention. The proposal seeks $800,000 to pay for the UA Scholars program next year, which gives an $11,000 scholarship to the top 10 percent of students in Alaska high schools.
The program currently is paid for with the university's Natural Resources Fund, Pitney said.
Currently, nearly 830 students are enrolled in the UA system under the program, Pitney said. Next year that number is expected to reach 1,000 and cost about $2.8 million.
The board also made changes to Hamilton's contract. His current contract pays him $205,000 annually and promises a $125,000 bonus at the end of five years, Burns said.
The changes award a $75,000 bonus at the end of three years, which has already passed, and increases Hamilton's pay to $250,000 per year for the remaining two years of the contract.
Burns said the increase reflects the board's ''overwhelming support for a job terrifically done.''
''It's still not reflective of his performance,'' Burns said. ''This takes him to 90 percent of the median and we think his performance is way above median.''
The contract will be renewed automatically each year unless either Hamilton or the board decides to end it, Burns said. Hamilton's original contract will expire at the end of the next academic year.
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