Staff, faculty budget forums offer chance to ask questions

Chancellor Blumenthal, CP/EVC Kliger, and interim VC for Planning and Budget Margaret Delaney at the staff budget forum. (Photo by Guy Lasnier)

Campus officials gave a presentation and answered questions last week at two town hall forums on the budget, one for staff and one for academic employees.

At the forums, Chancellor George Blumenthal, Campus Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor David Kliger, and interim Vice Chancellor for Planning and Budget Margaret Delaney provided the latest updates on efforts to implement changes stemming from budget cuts. Academic Senate Chair Lori Kletzer also helped moderate the forum for academic employees.

Chancellor Blumenthal reviewed the reductions UC has taken because of the shortfall in the state budget. In the 2008-09 and the 2009-10 academic years, UC has had to adjust to a nearly $1 billion funding decrease compared with its 2007-08 base, he said.

In response to systemwide reductions of this scale, UC has to date:

  • Increased student fees and is considering addition increases at its mid-November meeting;

  • Implemented a systemwide salary-reduction and furlough program;

  • Pursued other one-time actions, such as debt refinancing.

  • Reduced funding to campuses.

As its share of systemwide reductions, UC Santa Cruz has sustained more than $50 million in cuts, said Kliger-of which about half, $24.2 million, were on-going reductions that have led to cuts to campus programs.

"Unfortunately, the state's fiscal condition continues to deteriorate," Blumenthal said. "Revenues for the first quarter-July through September-are down by over $1 billion, and the state still needs to address an on-going structural deficit of $7 billion to $8 billion."

This week, the Regents will adopt a 2010-11 budget proposal for UC that will request state resources based upon the university's true need-including restoration of a portion of the funds cut from UC's budget over the past two years, said Blumenthal.

"Unfortunately, given the current fiscal environment, it is unlikely that the state will fund that budget request," he said.

To continue making progress in the difficult budget environment, the campus has initiated six budget work groups that are "thinking about and recommending ways to adjust the way we do business," said Kliger. And, he said, the administration is committed to working closely with the Senate leadership.

UCSC will be smaller and have fewer programs and initiatives, he said, but it will continue to move forward by with actions such as continuing to hire faculty and build disciplines to address the state's and the world's most critical issues.

Many questions were asked at the two forums. They included:

For fiscal year 2008-09, it was my understanding that permanent budget cuts were to be covered by student fees increases and staff furloughs, but that this only achieved half the required budget cuts. How are the other half of the budget cuts to be achieved? Should divisions expect further cuts to close the gap?

"We don't anticipate any more cuts this year. But frankly we do expect more cuts in the 2011 year," Kliger said. "We really don't know yet the magnitude of those cuts. We probably won't know until governor puts out his budget in January."

What's the dollar amount of cuts for UCSC, and what's the plan for choosing which programs get cut?

"The cuts so far are about $28 million in one-time cuts and a little over $24 million in permanent cuts," Kliger said. "We went through an extensive period over the last two years to figure out how each of the units on campus might take cuts, look at the impacts of assigning cuts to each unit, and try to figure out how to assign cuts to do the least damage to the campus."

Those they're not sure what the cuts will be for next year, "we're working on a process this year to try to understand how the impacts could be taken from all of the different units, we're working with the Academic Senate to pose specific questions to every principal officer about how might take cuts and what damage those cuts might do. We will then be working with a small budget advisory group that will be working with the Academic Senate, with staff, with students that will discuss possible ways to take the cuts during the year.

"All of this is sort of guesswork right now because we don't know how big the cuts are going to be," Kliger continued. "So we're planning for the worst and hoping for the best and trying to create contingency plans for how we would take different levels of cuts."

I've read that the state is looking at another $7 billion shortfall for the next budget cycle. What sort of planning is under way to address further budget cuts the state may levy against UC?

"The question is right," said Blumenthal. "The state is looking at a structural deficit of $7-$8 billion."

The campus is anticipating possible additional budget cuts for the 2010-11 year, he said.

"We don't know what the answer is going to be until the Legislature acts, but the first indication of what the state is going to do is what we see in the governor's budget in January," said Blumenthal.

We're putting up a huge biomed building, but we're not going to have money to staff it or pay the bills. I don't get it.

"We've heard before that we should stop building buildings so we don't have to lay off so many people," said Kliger. "But there are ongoing funds and one-time funds. Once you spend your one-time funds, they're gone, so you can't very well hire people with one-time funds unless you intend to only keep them on the payroll for one year. When we build buildings, we build them based on one-time funds . those monies can only be used to build those buildings, they can't be used for other purposes."

Is there an endorsed practice to not lay off an employee right before he or she would be eligible for retirement benefits? Example: it seems both unfair and unkind to lay off an employee for example at nine and a half years if they're trying to reach a goal of at least 10 years to receive certain benefits such as health care.

"If you're talking about nonrepresented employees, the order of layoff and reduction in time is affected by the classification and the layoff unit involved according to seniority," Kliger said. "For represented employees, the selection and order of layoff is determined by the contract provisions for that particular union. So there are standard rules we have to follow on all these layoffs."

"There is no desire on anyone's part to lay off employees at nine and a half years so that they can't vest," Blumenthal added. "But similarly, since we have all the rules that Dave just mentioned, we can't provide particular protection for individual employees either, because we have to abide by the rules."

Individual budget-cutting actions can have unintended consequences. Let's say the Math Department was going to cut something that would have ramifications on diversity or on other departments. Is there someone looking at individual decisions and looking at how they might impact the campus as a whole?

Kliger said last year's process "didn't work as well as it might have, in part because we didn't know the right questions to ask at the beginning of the year." This year, he committed to working with the Senate's Committee on Planning and Budget earlier, to ensure that principal officers are asked the "right questions" in order to assess the potential impact of divisional cuts.

"What happens when Math 2 gets cut is not a question our budget process naturally asks," added Kletzer. "We absolutely would benefit from a budget-cutting process that valued cross-divisional talk. With less state support, we have to make some very strategic principle might be that we will do things strategically, not proportionately."

To view videos of these events, visit the Budget Update page.