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CSUCI president juggles budget, growth

By   /   Friday, March 6th, 2009  /   Comments Off on CSUCI president juggles budget, growth

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California State University, Channel Islands, prepared a year ago to absorb the severe budget cuts enacted recently in Sacramento, and it will weather “a winter of our discontent,”  university President Richard Rush told members of the Camarillo business community Feb. 27.

Speaking at the annual CSUCI Connection Luncheon organized by the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce at Spanish Hills Country Club, Rush said that the reduced funding to the Cal State system approved by the Legislature on Feb. 19 looked a lot like the governor’s proposed budget in January of 2008.

“At that time we made an internal decision that we would plan for the next year to year and a half based upon that money,” he said.

By anticipating the cuts and adhering to severe cost-saving moves mandated by the California State University System, CSUCI has set aside enough money to make it through this fiscal year and the next without further reductions, he said.

“So we can make it through. We’re OK,” he said.  “But please don’t infer that OK means good. OK means OK. We are at a base level.”

He told the audience that the Cal State system took  a $31-million one-time  hit in its 2008-09 budget, followed by the recent midyear cut of  $66 million, which is permanent and will continue in the next academic year.

Rush described the cost-cutting measures in effect system-wide. They include an enrollment cap; a hiring freeze that allows for some exceptions; a cap on the salaries of the university chancellor, vice chancellor, presidents and vice presidents; and restrictions on travel and purchases.

The enrollment cap for CSUCI stands at about 3,800 students for this year and next, Rush said. He added that without the cap, enrollment had been expected to grow to about 4,500 to 5,000 students in the 2009-10 academic year.

Rush warned that a special election scheduled for May 19 has the potential to saddle the state university system with an additional $80 million in budget cutbacks.

Among other things, voters will be asked to approve borrowing $5 billion against future lottery revenues to help balance the 2009-2010 state budget. Another measure calls for a state spending cap that would extend recently enacted two-year tax increases for two more years. Failure to pass the propositions could result in more cuts to state services, including higher education.

“If that’s the case, we’re going to have to look very closely at what we are doing,” Rush said.

Early in his address, Rush talked about the economic impact of the university on Camarillo, saying that for every dollar spent by CSUCI, $4 goes out to the community.  This happens through a ripple effect of spending by successive recipients of the new money, a documented phenomenon that also creates jobs and generates tax revenue, according to a study cited by the Cal State University Web site.

Later, Rush had some good news for Camarillo relating to that economic impact: A $48-million infrastructure project at CSUCI that was halted Dec. 20 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sweeping executive order can be restarted.

“That will mean the multiplier effect will go out into the community; so that’s a good thing,” Rush said.

Using the $1-to-$4 formula, resumption of the work puts Camarillo back on track to reap about $192 million in economic benefits.

On the downside, Rush said the temporary halt to the project added to its costs, and the university will have to cough up an extra $250,000 to $500,000.

The university is not authorized to proceed with $52 million to $53 million in projects that are still in the planning and design stages, Rush said.

In a question-and-answer exchange with the audience after his speech, Rush was asked what the business community can do to support CSUCI.

He said that it is vital to convey to elected representatives the importance of the university.

“We have to make sure that in the public policies adopted, that education is at the top of the list,” he said, “or otherwise we are going to be running far behind our competitors internationally.”

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