State budget cuts impact UC

A dim state revenue picture has led Governor Gray Davis to slow increases to the University of California's share of the state budget, including proposing smaller gains in employee salaries, maintenance, instructional technology and research.

Davis announced the annual May revision of his 2001-2002 spending plan last week. With the recent slump in the stock market and a stagnant economy, state revenue projections have declined since the governor first unveiled his proposed budget in January; a $104.7 billion spending proposal now stands at $102.9 million.

For UC, the downturn means a $89.8 million proposed cut for the university system's core budget, paying for salary increases, benefit packages and inflationary price hikes. A 4 percent budget increase for these payments, annually included in a partnership agreement with the governor, was reduced to 2 percent.

Bob Loessberg-Zahl, UC Davis director of program planning and budget operations, learned that the cuts were planned shortly before the May 14 budget release.

"We knew that the state's funding situation had changed for the worse," he said. "We thought there would be some sort of reduction, but we hoped that the partnership would stay intact."

In the January spending plan, the governor also proposed an additional 1 percent partnership increase to help the university catch up in its building maintenance, library and instructional equipment and technology needs. These funds were also eliminated in the updated spending proposal.

"Folks will notice the absence of (the money)," Loessberg-Zahl said. "The basics will get done, but we won't be able to improve the way we would have."

Last year UC used the catch-up funds to pay for such things as technology support for academic departments and boosting library collections, he said.

In the revision the university system did receive a $100 million augmentation to cover increased natural gas costs and $12.8 million to help pay for an enrollment of 1,400 additional students next year.

With the additions and subtractions, the proposed UC budget is now $185.8 million, down from $202.5 million in January.

Davis' budget plan must be approved by the state Legislature by June 15, although deliberations in the annual budget process often continue well into the summer.

Office of the President and UC Davis officials are closely watching legislative hearings where the Assembly and Senate are already suggesting changes to Davis' proposals. The officials say it's hard to know, however, whether the Legislature will restore the cuts.

"We're in the middle of the process, and we are continuing to make the case for our priorities," said Brad Hayward, spokesman for the Office of the President. "On the other hand, the state's fiscal problem is a serious one."

Dennis Shimek, UC Davis' associate vice chancellor for human resources, hopes to tell lawmakers the effect the lowered salary increase will have on the university's ability to recruit and retain employees.

"I'm going to make the argument that this is going to have a significant impact on our ability to offer competitive salaries," Shimek said.

He expects leaders of the unions representing campus employees to join him in the push to restore raises.

Other proposed cuts to the UC budget include:

  • $20 million to eliminate one-time funding for deferred maintenance, instructional technology and equipment;
  • $5 million to do away with one-time support for engineering and computer science research;
  • $5 million to squelch one-time funding for environmental science research;
  • $5 million to reduce funding for the Professional Development Institutes; and
  • $1.5 million to eliminate graduate and professional school outreach funds.

The revision maintains funding for four California Institutes of Science and Innovation, UC Davis' M.I.N.D. Institute, and the first four buildings of UC Merced, though it shifts funding for the Merced projects from General Funds money to lease-revenue bonds.

Based on the proposed state spending plan, the UC Davis provost's office will soon send preliminary budgets to each campus academic and administrative department. As the state budget is finalized those allocations may change.

The spending picture could have been worse for UC, Loessberg-Zahl said.

State workers are getting no raises under Davis' revised plan. The governor has also proposed 2.5 percent across-the-board cuts to most state departments and agency budgets.

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