The UC Board of Regents convened on March 16 in San Francisco to discuss how the University of California will address a $500 million drop in state funding from Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed budget. On March 24 Gov. Brown signed the bill that would slash this funding, and on Tuesday he announced that negotiations to extend taxes through a special June election ballot have failed.
UC vice president for budget Patrick Lenz said campuses could face more severe reductions if Gov. Brown’s proposed tax extensions aren’t enacted. If the proposed tax extensions fail, the state will need to find other areas to reduce spending. UC officials expect that the UC system will see a $1 billion cut to state funding.
Three UC campus chancellors from Berkeley, Irvine and Santa Cruz spoke at the meeting and addressed how additional cuts would have drastic impacts on their campuses.
“We have no model to accommodate that $1 billion,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. “It would devastate our staff and faculty.”
UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal presented direct effects from previous cuts. Like Birgeneau, Blumenthal said he does not have a plan to accommodate further cuts.
“I’m not sure what we’ll have to do if the tax extensions don’t go through,” Blumenthal said. “It’s going to be a much more noticeable change.”
Blumenthal said the cuts made UCSC vulnerable in many ways, and the campus “can’t even exempt public safety operations — fire, police, and environmental health and safety.”
Regarding future budgetary concerns, Blumenthal asked the regents to consider changing how the reduced budget is spent on individual campuses. Currently, all campuses generate funds and send them to UCOP to redistribute, which results in some campuses receiving more than they generated, and vice versa. UCSC had historically received less than 100 percent of the funding generated by its own campus community. A restructuring of the funding structure proposed by Yudof would change all of this.
“We’ve never had a coherent philosophy and we need one,” UC president Mark Yudof said regarding funding distribution across the UC campuses.
The proposal would ensure that each campus keeps the funding it generates, with UCOP assessing a tax and thus leaving the president with much less influence in funding matters.
Not all campuses are enthusiastic about this restructuring. Large campuses with medical facilities will receive less money than usual under the new plan, as they will then be limited by what their campus communities can generate.
“The smaller campuses will benefit from this,” said Nathan Brostrom, executive vice president for business operations for the UC. “The major opposition to this was from medical centers, [which] may be taxed more than they have been. [The proposal] is designed to be revenue neutral, not biased towards or against any campus.”
Brostrom said this restructured funding model would allow administrators to reduce UCOP’s budget by $50 million.
Protesters outside the meeting held signs calling for the resignation of UC student regent Jesse Cheng. Cheng was not present at the meeting, and was quoted saying he would not attend in hopes of preventing such protests. The UCI undergraduate was found guilty of sexual battery against an ex-girlfriend by the UC Irvine Office of Student Conduct.
Additional reporting by Arianna Puopolo