My Turn: A flawed bill for more than 1.3 million reasons

$1.3 million dollars.

 

That is the amount of money that the University of Alaska estimates will be needed to hire consultants to review and establish security at the more than 400 facilities at three universities and 12 community campuses, should SB 174, allowing guns to be carried on campus, be voted into law. The money could be a legislative addition to the UA budget for the 2016-17 year.

The University of Alaska also estimates an additional $800,000 each year, subject to review based on consultants’ findings and actual expenses. Should the State provide these funds, this expense, millions of dollars in up-front and yearly costs, will ultimately come out of the pockets of State of Alaska residents, in the form of reduced services to fund these changes.

The University of Alaska states in the Fiscal Notes for SB 174 (http://www.legis.state.ak.us/PDF/29/F/SB0174-1-2-022616-UA-Y.PDF) that, “There is significant uncertainty, fiscal and otherwise, associated with the downstream effects of CSSB 174.”

Uncertainty about exact financial numbers? Yes.

Uncertainty about the impact on student enrollment and faculty/staff turnover? Yes.

Uncertainty about the significant costs to the UA System and Alaska residents yearly, and this in an era of deep budget cuts to education?

No, that much is pretty clear.

SB 174 will increase insurance premiums, possibly as much as $1 million per year. UA’s insurer, United Educators, has notified UA that it will require risk mitigation if this law is passed.

As for the “risk mitigation,” that will be insurer-mandated security upgrades on all campuses, to be paid for, hopefully, by the fiscal note. According to what the University of Alaska provided in the fiscal note, “In Idaho, the institutions projected spending $3.7 million in expenses to increase campus security following the passage of the law allowing concealed carry,” so the original estimate of $1.3 million in the first year may be woefully inadequate.

Typical expenditures, again as per UA estimates, include $2,500-$5,000 for each metal detector. Want to save some money and use a hand wand? Great! That will run $160 each, and then you can add more than $88,000 per year to have an unarmed security officer – closer to $123,000, if you want them armed. Secure card access at the door is $2,000-$12,000 per door, depending on whether interior, exterior or ADA compliant doors are being retrofitted.

The suggestion of $1.3 million for 2016-17 would offset some initial costs, after consultants’ fees, but extra money required yearly could continue to provide budgetary challenges. In the Fiscal Note to SB 174, the University of Alaska has asked for $800,000 each year for ongoing costs, but if UA is not given any extra financial consideration in connection to this bill, it leaves the UA System holding the bag.

Spending millions of dollars on hiring consultants, retrofitting security and paying insurance premiums does not make sense in the State of Alaska’s current fiscal situation. A mass shooting in the UA System is a distant hypothetical concern, but our finances are an immediate problem.

• Casey J. Rudkin, PhD, is an assistant professor in the University of Alaska system, and calls Soldotna home. This piece originally appeared in The KPC Connection April 2016

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