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New actions, employee options aim to address budget shortfall

Staff hiring freeze, new options for voluntary reductions in time are among initial tools to deal with $60-70 million deficit projected for 2009-10

| 11 March 2009

Town hall on the budget set for March 24

Staff and faculty are invited to learn more about the campus budget situation and plans being implemented to address it at a town-hall meeting on Tuesday, March 24, at noon in Wheeler Auditorium.

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and Vice Chancellor for Administration Nathan Brostrom will speak at the event and answer questions submitted by the audience.

The auditorium, in Wheeler Hall, holds 700 people, and seating is limited to that number. A UC Berkeley employee ID will be required at the door.

The town hall will also be webcast live and archived for viewing after the event; details on the webcast will be available soon at

Earlier this week the chancellor hosted a forum for campus leaders on the recently announced updates on budget planning and options, to help prepare them to answer questions in their units. The town-hall meeting continues the effort to keep the campus informed on the issue.

With a clearer picture of the current and coming financial challenges for Berkeley since last month's passage of a state budget to address California's $42 billion deficit, campus leaders this week announced new measures and tools to plan for budget cuts and begin shrinking the size of the campus workforce.

Budget Central logo

Visit the NewsCenter's Budget Central to read the full text of this week's letters from the chancellor and other campus leaders and for comprehensive information and future updates on the campus budget situation.

In two letters to staff and faculty early this week a big-picture update from Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and a detailed announcement of employee options and impacts from Vice Chancellor for Administration Nathan Brostrom campus leaders predicted a shortfall of $60-70 million for the Berkeley campus for 2009-10, on the heels of the already difficult current fiscal year.

Reducing the size and cost of Berkeley's workforce will be a necessary part of addressing the shortfall, the letters said. To that end, they announced a staff hiring freeze, effective immediately, and an expansion of the START program, allowing staff to reduce voluntarily their work time and pay from between 5% and 50%. Any request of a 5% reduction under START will be automatically approved, said the chancellor and EVCP.

"Our goal is to preserve existing staff positions wherever possible," Birgeneau and Breslauer wrote, "and we hope to accomplish as much as possible through attrition and voluntary means, although some units will have no other option but to implement permanent staff layoffs."

Brostrom said Berkeley will not require mandatory unpaid furloughs for employees this fiscal year a measure that was implemented for state employees but that the campus continues to explore that option with the UC Office of the President for faculty, staff, and administrators for 2009-10.

Additionally, there will not be a UC-wide voluntary early retirement incentive program (VERIP), as was offered in the early 1990s, nor is a Berkeley-specific staff retirement incentive program feasible now, Brostrom wrote. Details of a modest retirement program for faculty were sent to deans recently, and a voluntary separation incentive option for staff is still under discussion with UCOP.

A slowdown in faculty hiring is already in place, and will continue in 2009-10, reducing faculty replacements and new hires from about 100 in a typical year to 25 this year and the same number next year. The program will save about $5 million annually in salaries and start-up costs, Brostrom noted.

Efficiencies to ease the workload

With fewer employees, there is a commensurate need to reduce the workload on those remaining, as well as to save money through efficiencies, both letters acknowledged.

"Excellent work is taking place on many fronts across campus to implement new, more cost-effective ways to do business," said the chancellor and EVCP.

Brostrom listed specifics for near-term relief, including reductions in paperwork for purchases and reimbursements, less data-entry required for course evaluations, and new campus templates for ease in creating web pages. He also noted longer-term projects that will streamline work, including upgraded systems for human resources, academic personnel, financial processes, student services, and high-performance computing for research.

"Our challenge is to emerge from this recession with a stronger foundation on which to build for future generations," noted Birgeneau and Breslauer, adding their belief that Berkeley can "reach a new equilibrium with fewer resources for the next several years."

Obligations and priorities

About half of the projected $60-70 million deficit for next year is due to cuts in state funding, while half is from an increase in mandated expenses with no parallel increase in funding. These campus obligations include the cost of utilities, negotiated salary increases and faculty merits, health and medical benefits, and the employer portion of the anticipated restart of contributions to the UC pension fund.

"The deficit could still grow, and most likely will, as the state's response to its financial crisis unfolds," warned the chancellor and EVCP.

Campus leaders continue to be guided by a clear set of priorities, they said: "maintain our comprehensive excellence, assure access and affordability for students, sustain a robust undergraduate curriculum, and make sound choices in a difficult time for our employees."

Responding to a call issued by the chancellor on Jan. 27, campus units have been developing scenarios for taking at least an 8% permanent budget cut in 2009-10 to meet a portion of the shortfall. The chancellor has said he does not intend to impose identical across-the-board cuts on all units, but, informed by the submitted budget plans, will make "difficult choices now" to allocate variable, targeted cuts.

Complete information on the budget situation and links to details on the hiring freeze, START, and resources for employees are online at Budget Central,

Workshops offered on transitions in turbulent times

Human Resources is offering a series of campus workshops to help managers and other employees hone their skills and creative ideas for dealing with the challenges of tough budget times and changes in the workplace.

Sessions are scheduled through May 21 for the series, Managing Staff Through Tran-sitions. The sessions focus on topics including managing staff and options in a time of budget reductions; assisting, motivating, and retaining staff; resolving conflict; achieving work/life balance with fewer resources; and sustaining emotional health in turbulent times.

Some workshops are directed to managers and supervisors, while others are for a general audience. The complete schedule is online at

All workshops in the series will be held in Room 135, 2150 Shattuck Ave. Enrollment for each class is limited. To register for classes, log on to, go to the Self Service menu, and click on UCB Learning Center.