No ‘Plan B’ for budget

Even Ph.D. holders are having a hard time grasping this year’s state budget and what it means to Chico State University.

Provost Scott McNall met April 7 with faculty, staff members and others to answer questions about the complex funding that sustains the California State University system.

McNall said the good news is that, if the state Legislature approves the student fee increase recommended by the CSU chancellor and Board of Trustees, Chico State will have to cut “only” $8 million of its about-$110 million budget, as opposed to the $12 million for which it has braced itself. If the fees don’t come through, he said, “My greatest concern is that we don’t have a Plan B.”

If enrollment is not fully funded by the state as proposed, McNall said, “We would have to cut 1,300 class sections next year.”

The university is being forced to serve more students with less money, and to do that requires permanent cuts to the base budget. The big question, McNall said, is how Chico State will preserve its educational mission amid the reductions.

Among several questions in a survey targeted to faculty members, teachers are also being asked to consider whether their online courses make things more efficient or more difficult for them, since those offerings cost money. Travel budgets are also a place that’s been identified for belt-tightening.

Also, McNall said, if deans want to hire somebody, “convince me that you can take a 7.5 percent budget cut and still be solvent. We do not want to collectively bail out a college that used up all of its resources.”

Some of the two dozen people in attendance took the opportunity to lob questions about the CSU-ordered Common Management System (CMS), which is costing Chico State $2.7 million a year. McNall confirmed that CMS will weather 7.5 percent reduction to its budget locally.

Another person wondered what would happen to the money that had gone toward the president’s salary, since Manuel Esteban’s replacement will not be hired immediately after his retirement. “There would be some savings, yes,” said McNall, whom many assume will fill the role of interim president.

Professor Paul Persons questioned whether the administrative budgets are taking the same hit as other departments and funding areas, to which McNall assured that they are.