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Budget proposals assessed

By Lisa Lapin on June 13, 2003 in University

Efforts to protect people from layoff were evident as the Council of Deans and Vice Chancellors met last Friday to preview one another's budget-cutting proposals, to assess potential campuswide impacts of proposed unit reductions and to advise the provost about priorities for future investments.

The proposed reductions -- to be finalized and summarized early this summer in a campus budget plan -- anticipate cuts of $34 million, based on the governor's recommended budget. An additional UC-wide cut of approximately $80 million or more continues to be discussed in Sacramento this week as the governor and legislative leaders meet to finalize the state's 2003-04 budget. UC Davis' share of systemwide cuts is about 15 percent.

"This year we worked hard to protect people," said Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw. "Our key strength is in that valuable resource."

Administrative leaders were cautious about their ability to blunt the impact of cuts beyond this next year unless the state's economy turns around soon. Campus units were given permission by the provost to take up to three years to fully achieve a permanent reduction in their budgets.

After a briefing on budget allocations, reduction targets and budget and enrollment trends, CODVC looked at proposed budget reductions in the campuswide context of information technology, student services, research, rate increases and potential cost shifts, library, facilities maintenance and public safety, staff workload, secondary cuts through lost state grants, and legislative/public perception.

Information technology

John Bruno, vice provost for information and educational technology, noted a tendency for units to reduce or cut funds for equipment replacement, educational technology support for faculty, unit-based instructional technology support and instructional lab support. He indicated that this fall he will circulate for comment a draft campuswide information technology plan.

Student services challenges

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Judy Sakaki noted her concern about the state's targeted cuts to student services. "These services aren't frills. They're vital elements beyond the academic program that meet students' needs." She worried that cuts at a time when student numbers and diversity are increasing could diminish the quality of campus life and lessen UC Davis' appeal.

Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Pat Turner advised determining "the extent to which budget 'solutions' may cost more in the long run." Cuts in academic advising, for example, could cause students to take longer to graduate, she said, "costing us more in terms of over-enrollment." She noted the importance of instructional support, including adequate teaching assistant funding.

Research reductions

Research reductions were addressed by Deans Neal Van Alfen and Phyllis Wise and Vice Chancellor for Research Barry Klein.

Van Alfen, whose unit is facing steep cuts in Agricultural Experiment Station funding and a proposed 30 percent cut in Cooperative Extension funding, said his college will accommodate the reductions by eliminating open and new faculty positions. "Staff positions were cut in the 1990s," he said. "The staff who are remaining face severe overload."

He noted a likely loss to UC of about $10 million per year in indirect cost recovery funds due to diminished research activity because of fewer faculty. He also expressed concern that the college's programs of distinction could decline if faculty ranks are not routinely replenished. "It's really jeopardizing our future."

Wise said this year her division "will suffer, but not hemorrhage."

While she will sacrifice some start-up funding for new faculty, she will "at least maintain a trickle of new faculty hires," bringing people on to support the genomics initiative and other key strengths in the division, hoping to secure additional grant funding. She said she is sharing faculty positions with other units, and collaborating on start-up funding. She is also considering the institution of a materials fee for the division's lab courses; similar fees have been assessed by other UC biological sciences programs.

Klein noted that, as successful as the campus has been in securing extramural funds, "we have the potential of doing a lot better." Federal grants comprise just under 60 percent of the campus's extramural funds, compared to a 70 percent-plus range for other major institutions. The campus has a disproportionately high number of state-funded contracts and grants, "making us more vulnerable to state budget cuts," he said.

He advised that faculty ask for larger grants to more adequately address their research needs, and that the campus work with industry "to bring our knowledge base to bear" for the benefit of the regional community.

Library eyes cost-saving measures

University Librarian Marilyn Sharrow and Division of Social Sciences Dean Steve Sheffrin noted that the library is targeted for cuts because it falls under the Legislature's "administrative" unit umbrella.

Such classification is "really damaging," said Law School Dean Rex Perschbacher, who advocated that the library be granted "some slack" in meeting its 6 percent budget target.

Sharrow, noting a range of actions to accommodate cuts while preserving service and access to collections, indicated the library is exploring replacing print journals where electronic access can be provided as long as at least one printed copy is retained within the UC system. This strategy, she said, would save significant dollars and reduce the impact of the library's cuts on campus research and scholarship.

Today more than 10,000 electronic journals are published, compared to very few five years ago, she said. In the current budget plan, only 60 titles are scheduled for cancelation in print where no electronic counterpart exists, she said.

No titles will be canceled in print with or without an electronic counterpart without adequate consultation with faculty, Sharrow said.

Attrition helps protect positions

Interim Vice Chancellor for Administration Stan Nosek noted that, in the first year of a two- to three-year budget strategy, the Office of Administration "is trying to use attrition of as many open provisions as possible to protect current employees." Of some 1,400 full-time-equivalent positions, 10 have been targeted for layoff.

Nosek said the unit's "pressure points" include such challenges as campus growth, increased regulation, unfunded mandates, process improvement, and technology and equipment needs. He said he would consult further with CODVC and with the Senior Advisors Group about how his unit "could leverage what we're doing to help you minimize the impact of your cuts" and to "help define and protect our critical core services as additional budget reductions may become necessary."

Staff workload addressed

Dennis Shimek, senior associate vice chancellor for human resources, noted the importance of "communication, discussion, input and fair consideration of ideas" as the university grapples with anticipated reductions in state funding over the next few years.

He stressed the importance of a thoughtful and inclusive decision-making process, managers' commitment to helping place employees who are laid off, sensitivity to the impacts across campus and understanding that services will necessarily slow. "We can't afford to underestimate the importance of staff contributions to our academic enterprise."

Absorbing secondary cuts

The campus's direct cuts in state funds are "just the tip of the iceberg," said Marj Dickinson, assistant vice chancellor for government and community relations.

"There's a whole series of secondary cuts we're absorbing," she said. For example, the health system stands to lose funds from health-related state agencies and from local governments, the Tahoe Research Group will lose $150,000 in local water board funding, and the Mondavi Center outreach program will receive much less from the California Arts Council due to steep cuts in the council's budget.

Dickinson also noted that "we're hearing from our friends in the Legislature that UC hasn't been hurt yet. We know that's not the case...but the Legislature is considering 20 to 25 percent cuts in other agencies."

Prioritizing reinvestment

Suggestions for reinvestment included ensuring adequate support for enrollment growth -- from advising services to new classrooms -- as well as restoring central staffing for core administrative functions and investing in activities that generate new resources for the campus, such as research and fund raising.

The importance of "succession planning" was also noted, with some two-thirds of academic management services officers expected to reach retirement age in the next five to seven years.

Media contact(s)

Lisa Lapin, Executive administration, (530) 752-9842,

Amy Agronis, (530) 752-1932,