UC to cut perks for senior employees to reduce systemwide costs

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As of Oct. 15, the University of California will begin cutting perks for senior-level officials systemwide in an effort to reduce costs.

The policy changes were made in response to an April 2017 state audit of the UC system that found the UC Office of the President’s executive and administrative salaries to be “significantly higher” than those of comparable state employees. The new policies will reduce reimbursements for officials traveling on UC-related business, potentially eliminate supplemental retirement contributions for senior management level officials and limit reimbursements for costs related to employee relocation, according to a UC press release.

“These policy changes are consistent with UC’s commitment to public accountability, transparency and continuous improvement,” said UC spokesperson Claire Doan in an email.

According to the audit, the UC Office of the President spent at least $21.6 million on “generous” employee benefits over five years, including $2.5 million on retirement savings accounts for executives and more than $2 million on business meeting and entertainment expenses.

In addition to cutting reimbursement expenses, the UC will revise its cell phone policy. UC-issued cell phones and tablets will only be given to those whose position requires remote or nonbusiness hours access.

Doan stated in an email that savings from this policy change will be quantified by April 2019, citing a need for time to gather data.

The UCOP Audit Implementation Plan, which outlines the university’s progress in meeting audit recommendations, states that the UC is expected to adjust its reimbursement policies to definitively meet established targets by April 2020. If these adjustments result in savings, the UC is then required to reallocate surplus funds to campuses.

In the implementation plan, the UC has grouped its 33 goals into 10 “workstreams,” or overarching areas of focus. Among the workstreams that have been listed as “analysis underway” are setting targets for UCOP employee and leadership salary ranges, revisiting reimbursement policies, implementing staffing plans and establishing policies regarding UCOP reserves. The April 2017 audit criticized UCOP for not disclosing $175 million in budget reserve funds to the public.

Increasing transparency regarding the UCOP budget process has been “partially implemented,” according to the UCOP Audit Implementation Plan.

Rafi Sands, student adviser to the UC regents, said he found it commendable that the UC has addressed budgetary issues in a timely fashion, but he added that he believed the new policy changes were not enough to solve the UC’s financial crisis.

“(These cuts) never could add up to save us from tuition hikes or help us to not have to cut classes or seek outside donors,” Sands said.

Sands also said that while it is important to acknowledge that the university is addressing issues of financial accountability, the UC’s focus should be on public education as a whole.

“Let’s focus on what the main issues are going on here: systematic disinvestment in public higher education,” Sands said.

Revati Thatte is the lead higher education reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @revati_thatte.