A lot of the budget talk out of Juneau has been focused on school districts around the state. But the university system is also expected to be targeted by Governor Mike Dunleavy’s forthcoming budget.
Those cuts have filtered down to Kenai Peninsula College over the past five years, but KPC Director Gary Turner says just because looming budget cuts aren’t exactly news, it doesn’t make them any easier to deal with.
“Of course we’re nervous. I’m nervous pretty much like anybody who has something that’s going to be in the budget. I think that’s natural. Every agency, every department, they’re wondering where it’s going to wind up.”
Potential cuts could be amplified in areas of the state where the university has a strong presence.
“A strong state needs a strong institution of knowledge, a strong university," Turner says, quoting University of Alaska President Dr. Jim Johnsen.
"That’s very true. If we’re not educating our populace (at) KPC on the Kenai Peninsula, those are the people that are going to go out and turn around the economy maybe and they’re going to get jobs and they’re going to have families and it just turns. But if you start cutting to the bone, which over the last four or five years the university is to the bone, then that’s just going to make things even more difficult.”
Turner says it’s tough to make many plans without the full details of the governor’s proposed budget, but KPC has sustained $2.5 million in cuts since 2014, which means there’s a lot less fat to trim now compared to then.
“We’ve been through this scenario before, but not hardly the way we might see it (this year). It’s difficult. We laid people off, we reduced contracts for people, reduced the number of hours they might work in a week, didn’t fill positions that were vacant. It takes a lot to figure out, ok, where are you going to cut?”
The Governor is expected to release his proposed budget Wednesday morning.