Budget, bylaws reviewed at Staff Assembly meeting

As the state faces continuing fiscal difficulties, UC Davis' budget director updated the Staff Assembly this month about how the campus is coping with budget cuts at a time of rapid growth.

Kelly Ratliff, assistant vice chancellor for budget resource management, spoke to an audience of about 75 people at the Staff Assembly's fall meeting. She said that in the past two years UC endured cuts of $480 million, and UC Davis had to trim $36.5 million from its budget.

The campus has been allocated $59.6 million from state general funds for enrollment growth and inflation in the last two years. And although that budget has increased 5 percent during those years, the campus has during that period seen a 19 percent increase in enrollment growth. The result has been a net decrease in spending power, Ratliff explained.

"All these cuts are coming at a time of significant growth," she said, noting, "Categorical cuts means some units are under more pressure than others, but it is not business as usual anywhere on campus."

Ratliff said in the past year student services have been cut by 20 percent, research funding has diminished by 20 percent and some outreach programs have been cut by 50 percent.

Consultation with deans and vice chancellors has been a high priority and will continue to be as cuts are studied and allocated, Ratliff said. She told staff members that the campus is committed to protecting employees and student instruction.

The administration is working to avoid layoffs as much as possible, said Dennis Shimek, associate vice chancellor for human resources. During the meeting he said that 35 staff members have been laid off thus far, noting: "That number is a very low number."

Policies, like one giving preferred hiring status to employees who are targeted for layoff in their current jobs, are designed to help keep those numbers down. Shimek also said that 150 UC Davis staff members are now taking part in the START voluntary time-reduction plan. Implemented in late spring, the program gives employees the option of reducing their time and pay by 10 to 50 percent.

At the systemwide level, UC regents recently began preliminary discussions about options to meet additional budget cuts. The state Department of Finance has asked all state agencies, including UC, to consider how they might absorb a budget cut of up to 20 percent next year. UC Davis has not been asked to develop a 20 percent reduction plan yet, Ratliff said.

During the regents' September meeting, UC Vice President for Budget Larry Hershman said that simply to keep up with enrollment and workload increases, the university in normal times would need to request a budget increase of 10 percent next year.

Options discussed at the regents meeting included enrollment restrictions, more student fee increases, employee salary decreases and additional cuts to programs already cut significantly this year, including research, Cooperative Extension, student services and K-12 outreach.

The board of regents will gather again Nov. 19-20, to, among other things, vote on a series of guiding principles that will direct the development of the 2004-05 budget.

Ratliff said that while the budget situation at UC Davis has been difficult, the campus has made careful and deliberate plans to accommodate cuts -- and will continue its advance-planning approach. "Last year we had all this uncertainty with the budget," she said. "Provost Hinshaw asked us to make some assumptions so that we could plan, and our assumptions held up. The Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor will want to do the same thing this year."

Ratliff said, among other things, the campus is adjusting its state-funding expectations and striving to rely less on state support.

Also at the meeting, Zack O'Donnell, chair of Staff Assembly, suggested that the organization's bylaws be updated to better accommodate staff members who are represented by unions. Currently, he said, bylaws prevent represented staff from holding seats on the Staff Assembly Executive Committee or chairing subcommittees.

The bylaws were initially intended to keep crystal clear the proper role of Staff Assembly as simply an advisory group as stated in its 1969 charter-- and to keep it from being perceived as an organ for collective bargaining.

But he believes those bylaws restricting participation have since had an unfortunate side-effect. "Those delineations split people -- they get turned off by the segregation," he said. That runs counter to his objectives as chair. "It's been my overall goal to get more people involved," he said.

O'Donnell also said he hoped Staff Assembly would continue to work closely with the Academic Senate to solve issues of mutual concern, such as the need for more staff and faculty housing and parking.

For budget details, see http://www.news.ucdavis.edu/budget/.

Media Resources

Amy Agronis, Dateline, (530) 752-1932, abagronis@ucdavis.edu

Clifton B. Parker, (530) 752-1932, cparker@ucdavis.edu

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