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Cal State trustees consider contingency plans in face of $250 million shortfall

Vanessa Romo/KPCC

California Faculty Association members staging a protest of a CSU meeting. CSU trustees are considering a plethora of contingency plans if voters reject a tax initiative intended to cover the university’s growing shortfall.

The Cal State University chancellor’s office says “the easy choices are gone” when it comes to budget-cutting. CSU trustees are considering a plethora of contingency plans at their meeting on Tuesday if voters reject a tax initiative intended to cover the university’s growing shortfall.

Cal State Assistant Vice Chancellor Robert Turnage says it's time to consider "something that we call a 'trigger on a trigger.'"

That’s a series of cuts that would take effect if state lawmakers remove $250 million from the university’s budget in November.

And, Turnage says, that won’t be pretty.

"All the feasible approaches that add up to $250 million share one thing in common," says the vice chancellor. "And that is that they are unpalatable."

To keep all 23 Cal State campuses functioning, the trustees have two options. They could hike tuition by another $150 per semester for in-state students, and kick it up almost double that for out-of-staters — or they could slash the system’s enrollment by about 6,000 students. 

The first plan would also require a 2.5 percent cut in salaries and benefits. The second would bump that up to just over 5 percent systemwide. 

Cal State's faculty union is still in negotiations with the administration over the next three-year contract. 

"I’m sure that writing things into the contract based on what happens with the revenue of the system and what the budget is going to look like is something that’s going to be discussed," says Brian Feguson, a spokesman for the union.

Ferguson called the trustees’ choices “absolutely stark,” but he says union members expect everyone in the system to share the burden.

"Certainly one thing that our folks would be interested in hearing [is] if there’s paycuts for administrators as well as the faculty," says Ferguson.

The Cal State Board of Trustees will wait until September to vote on which plan to pursue.

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