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As voters weigh state's budget options, UC Berkeley eyes severe options for addressing cuts

Failure of Tuesday's ballot propositions likely to lead to further pain, from student fees to staff furloughs

| 15 May 2009

With a slate of critical ballot propositions facing voters on Tuesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday offered two revised scenarios for mending the state's worsening budget outlook. One is bad news for the University of California. The other, for some, is too grim to contemplate.

Should the measures fail, Berkeley might have to brace for an additional $30 million in funding cuts roughly half again more than previously announced cuts that have already led the campus to layoffs, a staff hiring freeze, and a slowdown in faculty hiring, among other budget-balancing actions. At the systemwide level, the UC regents recently approved a 9.3 percent student-fee increase."Cuts of this magnitude would severely impact every part of the campus community, and compromise the mission of UC Berkeley itself," said Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. "We simply cannot afford to mortgage the excellence and reputation of one of the world's greatest public universities."

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Added Birgeneau: "The May 19 election is a pivotal moment for California. No matter how people choose to vote, they should make themselves heard at the polls on Tuesday."

Warned UC President Mark Yudof: "The severe reductions envisioned in these scenarios, especially if the ballot measures fail, threaten a dramatic change in the quality and accessibility of the university." He cited a number of "unpleasant options" for closing the system's widening budget gap, including further increases in fees and class sizes, reduced academic-program offerings and availability of campus services, and pay cuts or furloughs for staff. (Read Yudof's full statement)

The governor issued his statement days before voters weigh in on a series of budget measures Schwarzenegger hopes will help close the state's budget gap, now projected to exceed $15.4 billion. Both of the scenarios he presented change the proposed allocation of state funds and federal stimulus money to UC, adding to the system's expected shortfall of some $450 million over the next two fiscal years.

The scenario that assumes passage of the governor's ballot measures one of which, Proposition 1A, the UC Board of Regents has formally endorsed would result in a total reduction of $240 million for UC's 2009-10 operating budget, according to the Office of the President.

Should the measures fail on May 19, Schwarzenegger proposes to take an additional $50 million bite out of the state's UC funding allocation, with another $31 million cut to academic-preparation programs that reach out to pre-college students. According to UCOP, "no" votes on the ballot propositions would cost the system some 10 percent of its General Fund support in 2009-10.

At Berkeley, where the shortfall was expected to hit $64 million prior to the governor's announcement, the campus could face an additional $18 million in cuts even if the propositions pass, and a staggering $30 million in further cuts if they fail. Among the potential impacts should voters give the thumbs-down: Students would see access to classes limited, resulting in longer times to graduate and higher costs; faculty hiring would be slowed even further; and staff layoffs due to budget reductions, thus far limited to fewer than 100 at Berkeley, could increase significantly.

For more information on Proposition 1A, visit the Office of the President's website. Official information on the special election, including ballot arguments on the propositions, can be found at the California secretary of state's election website.