Questions and answers on the UC Davis budget
February 29, 2008
UC Davis created a special Web page — news.ucdavis.edu/special_reports/budget — to provide information to faculty and staff on the financial challenges facing the campus and the UC system. Kelly Ratliff, associate vice chancellor for budget resource management, coordinated the responses to the following queries by members of the campus community:
EARLY RETIREMENT, REDUCED TIME AND NEW JOB ASSISTANCE
Q. Can UC Davis establish reduced-time programs or do reduced-time programs need to be established by the Office of the President?
A. UC Davis has the authority to establish some reduced-time programs. However, the Office of the President must establish the program if it affects the UC Retirement Program (such as granting full-year service credit for less than full-year work), or the UC benefits programs (such as providing benefits not usually provided below a certain time base) or if it affects collective bargaining agreements at the UC-level.
Q. I remember TRIP, TRIT and START but I can't remember the details; please remind me. Will similar reduced time programs be implemented to help reduce expenditures but at the same time avoid layoffs?
A. TRIP and TRIT were temporary programs implemented by the Office of the President in the early 1990s. The Temporary Reduction in Pay (TRIP) program, effective 1992 to 1994, offered employees the opportunity to voluntarily reduce their percentage of appointment and salary for 12 or 18 months. The Temporary Reduction in Time (TRIT) program applied to CX and SX employees only. START was a temporary program implemented in the early 2000s. It allowed career staff employees, with the approval of their departments, to voluntarily reduce their time by 10 percent to 50 percent without losing full-time service credit. The program ended June 30, 2006. It's possible that reduced-time programs will be implemented, but we don't yet know.
Q. Will layoff or transfer assistance programs be implemented if staff positions are eliminated? For example, we had a program called STOP a few years. If there are layoffs will UC Davis ensure that the preferential rehire system is in place and new positions listed are internal, then external?
A. Current contracts and policy provide for preferential rehire for employees facing layoff and all agreements will be honored with the existing programs that are in place locally, including the Special Transfer Opportunity Program, which was used in the early 2000s to facilitate rehiring of staff members who were in positions subject to layoff. UC Davis will also provide funds for support services managed by the campus human resources office to supplement job-related training for staff facing layoffs.
Q: Will there be an early retirement incentive program?
A. No. VERIP (Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program) was implemented at the UC system-level for several years in the early 1990s. We have not received any indication that an early retirement incentive is being planned and, in fact, have heard a number of reasons why it wouldn't be appropriate now.
Q: Wasn't a special severance program recently established? I thought I read about one.
A: A severance program has not been set up for employees at the UC campuses. Earlier this year, the UC Office of the President started reducing filled positions among its units and established Voluntary Separation Program, a severance program for Office of the President employees only.
UTILITIES AND ENERGY CONSERVATION
Q: I know we need to keep the campus safe, but there are way too many lights on when the buildings are not occupied at night and on weekends. I wonder if we couldn't save a lot on electricity on lights and heat.
A: An excellent observation since a real potential for savings does exist here. We are working diligently on a program to retrofit and improve building controls to overcome one of our strategic difficulties — the fact that many of our buildings have inadequate building control systems and lack zone configurations, which hinders the effective management of lighting, heating and cooling systems for optimum performance. We do have numerous folks who spend hours during the weekends working on campus. These include graduate students, postdocs and faculty working on their research projects in labs; students studying in the library; and staff taking care of animals and equipment. Automatically turning down the heat and lights in most buildings is not practical.
We also rely on the good habits of individual occupants to support our conservation efforts. Good practices include turning out the lights and computers when leaving for several hours (or at least putting computers on standby), turning off/unplugging unused equipment, and recycling materials so that they do not end up in the landfill.
Here is a great example of staff in an office taking action: Staff in the College of Biological Sciences (CBS) recently reviewed lighting needs in the Sciences Lab Building greenhouse. It is difficult to reduce lighting because it is the No. 1 factor for plant growth and quality. Furthermore, in this relatively new building, the lamps are energy efficient, with computerized control systems that regulate the lamps, turning them on or off depending on sunlight intensity.
Nonetheless, CBS identified actions #1 and #2 that CBS can and immediately will take on its own and action #3 that would require campus involvement.
1. Our photoperiod for the lamps is 16 hours. We may be able to reduce it to 15 hours without any noticeable disruption. It is something we can try to see what happens.
2. We can reduce lighting from mid-spring until late summer by shutting down all lamps at the west end of the greenhouse. This is a 25 percent reduction. The savings would not be much because this is the time of year lights are used the least amount.
3. Our lamps are not the latest technology. Today there is a new type of lamp — a digital electronic ballast lamp. The manufacturer says these can be up to 25 percent more efficient than our current magnetic ballast lamps. And they have lower maintenance costs and longer bulb life. Facilities has repaired or replaced bulbs and parts in nearly every one of our 30 lamps in the last two years. If there is funding to upgrade the lamps then this would be an energy savings.
Campus energy infrastructure improvements, combined with efforts of offices and individuals, make a difference, and we appreciate all efforts to reduce our energy consumption.
Q: Can we use private giving funds to help address the budget challenges? How does UC Davis compare with other UC campuses for private giving?
A: Private giving is critical to our public-private partnership to help achieve our goals of high quality. However, private giving does not substitute directly for core funds like state general funds or student fees. Private giving is usually for restricted purposes such as equipping a renovated building, creating an endowed chair, providing graduate fellowships or undergraduate scholarships. As a source to fund campus expenditures, private support is growing, but it represents less than 7 percent of our total spending. Campus financial schedules are available on the UC Office of the President Web site.
UC Davis received $100 million in private support in 2006-07, an increase of 23 percent over the $81 million received in 2005-06. In comparison to other UC campuses, we rank in the middle. Comparison data are available at the University of California Office of the President Annual Report on University Private Support 2006-07.
STAFF AND DEPARTMENTAL SUPPORT
Suggestion: I don't have a question but a couple of suggestions and some food for thought:
If there is going to be a 10 percent cut:
1. There are small departments on campus that could be merged.
2. VERIP — Only this time with more stringent rules. The first one back in the 1990s was probably the only one that was needed then. The second one took its toll on the retirement system.
Between these two there could be more than a 10 percent savings. Layoffs would leave fewer people with more work, which is what has happened with the last budget cuts. For the campus to run efficiently, it seems that the first two suggestions are worth consideration.
Response: We are very interested in suggestions such as these from staff because the staff provides a great breadth of perspective. Kelly Ratliff is working with the Staff Assembly, ADMAN and other representative groups to gather suggestions from staff. These groups will help identify opportunities to combine organizational units and evaluate different service models.
The VERIP was implemented at the UC system-level for several years in the early 1990s. We have not received any indication that an early retirement incentive is being planned and, in fact, have heard a number of reasons why it would not be appropriate now. Our campus will be reinstituting programs to help our staff and departments during this difficult time. Potential programs include STOP and START that were successfully used during our last budget reductions.
Comment: We absolutely need to maintain enough support to properly administer the grants the campus receives. This means keeping enough money at the department level to administer these grants because that is where the administration occurs. Mistakes would be very costly, and we need to make sure that our commitments for indirect expenses are met.
Response: The campus is aware that many departments are already stretched thin with respect to staffing. Maintaining core staff support and improving our processes will be high priorities as we deal with budget cuts.
REDUCE EXPENSES, WORKLOAD
Q. Why do we offer health benefits to employees while they are still on probation?
A. Benefits policy is set by the Office of the President. It should be noted that the UC benefits package is generally viewed favorably and is considered to be an important tool to recruit and retain quality faculty and staff. We do not have specific information, but it seems unlikely that reductions in health benefits are being considered for any categories of employees.
Q. I know there is a need for travel to attend conferences and meetings. In the period of webinars and videoconference is there an opportunity to restrict travel and utilize funds in other ways?
A. It appears that faculty and staff do take advantage of webinars and video conferencing but, as you note, there is still some need for travel. UC travel policy does instruct the traveler to identify the lowest cost means of travel or it must be approved as an exception. Campus administrators are aware of the need to reduce expenditures where possible. Undoubtedly travel plans will be scrutinized, and we may see more units and individuals substituting webinar and video conferencing for travel.
CAMPUS BUDGET PRROCESS
Q: How can staff participate?
A: We are actively seeking input from staff as part of the campus budget planning process. Kelly Ratliff is working with the Staff Assembly, ADMAN and other representative groups to gather suggestions from staff. Sharing input with your department chair, dean, vice chancellor or vice provost is another option. Information will be shared on a regular basis using Dateline, the Budget news Web page and e-mail updates.
GRADUATE STUDENT SUPPORT
Q: Will the campus be reducing the 25 percent GSR fee and tuition buy-down benefit for PIs that support graduate students with (extramural) contract and grant funds?
A: The campus will NOT be changing the GSR (graduate student researcher) fee buy-down program. Student fees are expected to increase, but the campus will allocate additional funds to maintain the 25 percent fee and tuition buy-down for all GSRs paid with extramural funds. More information about this program is available on the Office of Graduate Studies Web site.
Q: I am a Ph.D. student and I am wondering if the proposed budget cut will result in less money for fellowship funds and (perhaps as a result) students taking on more loan debt?
A: The campus is fully committed to graduate education even in these challenging budget times, as is reflected in continued financial commitment to graduate student support and the fee and tuition buy-down program.
Having said that, it really is too early to know the impacts of any proposed budget cuts. There are two reasons for this uncertainty. First, the budget the governor submitted will be vetted by the Legislature, and there will undoubtedly be negotiations between the Legislature and the governor before the 2008-09 state budget is finalized. Second, the regents will need to make decisions on how to handle the UC cuts — including what to do about student fees. The compact that the governor and UC agreed to several years ago includes a 7 percent to 10 percent annual increase in student fees. Because the governor has indicated that he is honoring the compact, it seems very likely that student fees will increase by at least 7 percent for 2008-09, but the regents still have to weigh in on this issue.
Once the process is complete and we have a campus budget to allocate, we should be better able to assess whether there will be any impact on student financial support, including fellowships. In general, the campus will respond to a fee increase by increasing funding for many types of graduate student aid to help keep pace with a fee increase. Increased funding will be available for the annual block grant to graduate programs and groups, TA fee remission, and the campus program that helps PIs with extramural contracts and grants to buy down the fees and tuition for graduate student researchers. As a graduate student, if you are a teaching assistant or if you are paid from a research grant such as a GSR, your fees should be paid by the same funding source that pays your salary. If you are on a fellowship, it may also pay your fees, depending on the nature of the fellowship.
Comment: Hopefully, the cessation of pay increases/bonuses for upper-management positions will be seriously considered as part of the possible budget solution.
Response: As the campus deliberates on how to move forward, all options will be considered. However, as with all of our university positions, it is important that we try to maintain competitive salaries as best we can even during these difficult times.
BUDGET DEBATE News and memos, and budget Q&A: www.news.ucdavis.edu/ special_reports/budget Ask a question, make suggestions and comments: firstname.lastname@example.org Budget planning worksite on SmartSite: smartsite.ucdavis.edu (join the worksite by clicking on “Membership”)
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