UCSC Arboretum: Developing a sustainable operation

In a letter to the UCSC community, Alison Galloway, vice provost and dean of academic affairs, says addressing the Arboretum's financial challenges is a painful but necessary step that must be taken if the garden is to remain open and accessible to the public.

Dear UCSC Colleague,

As you no doubt have read in recent newspaper accounts, the UCSC Arboretum is undergoing a major restructuring in response to serious financial difficulties. This restructuring effort, I am very sorry to report, has required layoffs of some of the valuable and hardworking staff there; I very much regret the very real impact that this is having on these individuals.

While I am writing to assure you of our plans to retain the facility as a living and public repository for horticultural collections, I suffer no illusions about the challenge of doing so with fewer staff. But I believe it is possible, and am working with staff to develop an organizational structure that refocuses the Arboretum operation on two goals: preserving the Arboretum's existing collections, and maintaining public access to those collections.

I also want to provide you with background information on the depth of the Arboretum's fiscal challenges.

By now it's not news to you that the state's serious budget problems have resulted in one-time and ongoing cuts to UC Santa Cruz of approximately $50 million. In the early rounds of budget reductions last fiscal year, no reductions were made to the Arboretum funding. As you all know too well, recent budget cuts have left us with few options but to cut more deeply and painfully across university operations.

Entering a new fiscal year, it became painfully clear that the Arboretum had to downsize in order to address three areas of fiscal concern:

  • In recent years, the campus has provided the Arboretum with $130,000 annually. On a campus that has sustained $50 million in reductions in state support, this money is no longer available for Arboretum expenses. The campus will continue to cover the cost of water and other utilities for the Arboretum.

  • Even with the campus contribution, the Arboretum's operating deficit for 2008-09 was approximately $225,000. In the last decade, the amount of the Arboretum deficit spending has varied from approximately $20,000 to over $500,000 per year. A cumulative debt now reaches $1.8 million, and interest payments on this debt are an increasing drain on the Arboretum resources.

  • Approximately 20 percent of the annual revenue has come from endowment earnings. The downturn in the stock market will reduce this revenue source by approximately $60,000 for the coming year, further contributing to the need for an Arboretum operational plan that is in sync with its budget.

In closing, while I can say with confidence that the campus is absolutely committed to keeping the Arboretum open, I believe it will remain open only if we can put in place an operation at the facility that is truly sustainable.


Alison Galloway

Vice Provost and Dean, Academic Affairs

UC Santa Cruz