UC Berkeley Chancellor says trigger cuts are ‘assured’

Taryn Erhardt/Senior Staff
Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance John Wilton, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer speak on the current state of the university.

The University of California will be cut up to a further $100 million in state funding, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said Friday.

In an interview with The Daily Californian’s Senior Editorial Board Friday afternoon, Birgeneau said that when he and campus Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance John Wilton met with Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 22, Brown “assured us (the cut) is coming.”

The governor’s press office would not confirm any statements he made while meeting with Birgeneau and Wilton.

An additional $100 million would bring the state’s total reduction in funding to the university this year to $750 million.

The burden of absorbing up to $15 million of that cut could fall on the campus, depending on whether the state legislature renegotiates the amount of the cut to the university and how the UC Office of the President divides the eventual funding reduction, according to Wilton.

To mitigate the cut, the campus will ask individual units to maintain current expenditure levels and utilize their financial reserves to cover the cut.

Using the reserves — which Wilton called a “very high opportunity cost resource” — to cover this cut could leave the campus vulnerable to potential future reductions in state funding. However, Wilton said campus administrators were “slightly ahead of the curve” in dealing with the budget crisis and had already implemented longer-term initiatives to improve the campus’s fiscal health.

Birgeneau pointed to changes in investment practices and increases in out-of-state student enrollment as policies that will increase the campus’s revenue to offset possible further funding reductions.

While the decision to enact the trigger cuts — included in the 2011 state budget as insurance against the state collecting about $4 billion in revenue — will not be finalized until Dec. 15, their implementation has looked inevitable for some time. At the end of September revenue collection, the state lagged $705.5 million behind its target, according to the state controller’s office.

“For better or worse, the potential for revenue shortfalls is precisely why the Governor and Legislature included trigger cuts in this year’s State spending plan,” said state Controller John Chiang in an Oct. 10 press release announcing the shortfall. “September’s revenues alone do not guarantee that triggers will be pulled. But as the largest revenue month before December, these numbers do not paint a hopeful picture.”

Jordan Bach-Lombardo is the university news editor.