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February 23, 2004

Budget impact candidly discussed at Chancellor's Staff Forum

By Louise Donahue

Staff positions will be lost as budget cuts deepen, but the campus will do whatever it can to cushion the impact. That was the message at Chancellor Greenwood's winter staff forum on February 18.

Staff Human Resources is expanding its 'transition services' to assist with budget-related job changes. See story.

"We have worked very hard to make the impact on campus as far from the classroom as possible and as compassionate as it's been possible to be," Greenwood said.

She noted that the campus preferential rehiring program is continuing and that efforts are under way to identify openings in campus jobs that are not dependent on state funding.

Speaking at his first staff forum since being named campus provost, Martin M. Chemers provided an overview of the budget situation and the campus reorganization initiative.

The state funding cut to campus for 2004-05 is estimated to be about $17 million, and includes the $5 million already cut this year. About $6 million of the permanent cuts are proposed to be achieved through savings from the Executive Budget Committee process, from leaving open faculty positions unfilled, and from programmatic changes. Absent voter approval of propositions 57 and 58 (authorizing the state to borrow $15 billion to help fund its budget), cuts could be even deeper.

Chemers said he would be asking academic and division heads to prepare budget-cutting scenarios shortly. "These will not be across-the-board cuts," he said, noting that in some cases matching funds or other issues may affect budget-cutting targets.

Options for additional budget cuts include cutting more open faculty positions, cutting temporary academic staffing, and cutting the number of new teaching assistants.

"I will not lie to you; there will be positions lost," he said. "If you see yourself in the bulldozer's line, you've got to think about where you can go that you'll be safe." Asked later how a staffer could determine what jobs were threatened, Chemers advised staff members to talk to their supervisors.

Service center consolidation is a key element in the campuswide efficiency initiative launched by the Executive Budget Committee to examine business and academic processes. The business center reorganization involves consolidating 23 current service centers into a single organization including staff Human Resources, payroll, purchasing, and contracting and grant support.

"This is a gigantic undertaking, as you can imagine, and we're taking it very carefully, because as we go from 23 to one, we're still doing the work," Chemers said. "It's kind of like building the car in the middle of the race." Implementation in middle to late fall is the goal, "but that's not a promise. We are going to do this carefully and do it well, because precipitous actions that lead to mistakes are bad for the system and they're also bad for the people involved."

Chemers noted that University Extension will provide training targeted to university employees seeking other positions on campus. A flyer about UCSC staff transition support services was available outside Classroom Unit 2, where the forum was held. (See related story)

Chemers said the savings from reorganization will cushion the impact of budget cuts in the short term and allow the campus to grow with lower costs in the long term. Already, the campus has achieved about $3 million in permanent savings from the efficiency effort, Chemers said. "I expect that as time goes on, that number will go up," he added.

Savings have come in a variety of areas so far, including seeking a 65-vehicle reduction in the campus vehicle fleet to changes in UCSC's administrative structure that combined the Division of Graduate Studies with the vice chancellor for Research Office.

Another major reorganization initiative, set for fall implementation, involves the consolidation of all information technology services into a single organization, though not all at a single location. (See February 2 Currents story, “Effort under way to consolidate information technology on campus")

In addition, the academic deans have formed a Deans Council at Chemers' request to change to three- or five-year academic planning, "which will reduce this quarter-by-quarter, constant redundant iteration of our planning process," saving time and money.

Asked by a staffer about the problem of trying to do the same work--or more work--with fewer resources, Greenwood said the cuts are severe enough for a thorough rethinking of expectations and delivery of services throughout campus.
She said services should be placed in three categories: things each unit must do, things units like to do or have always done, and things that are no longer necessary. "We will be looking at things that frankly we can just chuck overboard," she said.

Greenwood was also asked how the campus can afford to buy the closed Texas Instruments building in Santa Cruz in a time of such tight budgets. "Texas Instruments is engaged in an educationally supportive offer. They are making us a very special deal," Greenwood said, explaining that the purchase is in escrow now, which limits her ability to provide many details. "This is not a very expensive purchase," she said, noting that it would save the campus money now spent leasing other property in the city. Donor support is also being sought to help defray the cost, she said.

Another staffer asked about the possibility of a UC-wide early retirement program. "There is not going to be a VERIP," Greenwood said, referring to an earlier UC retirement incentive program known as the Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program. She said that has been a consistent message throughout the budget crisis.

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