Trigger cuts could reduce CSU funding another $100 million

Andrew Lopez

California’s revenues are below projections and moving the CSU closer to a trigger cut that could take an additional $100 million from the system, according to the first report of state finances since the budget was adopted in June.

The possibility of more cuts is no different than years past and CSUN has an austerity plan, said Dr. Harry Hellenbrand, CSUN provost and vice president for academic affairs.

“We’ve tried to build in a reserve to handle additional cuts,” he said. “What will be, will be.”

CSUN sets aside millions through savings from over- and international enrollment, and frugal practices, such as replacing computers every four years instead of every three, Hellenbrand added.

If less than $3 billion is earned before the end of the year, the CSU will sustain another funding cut, bringing total reductions for 2011-12 to $750 million, according to the CSUN Campus Budget News website.

The budget relies on $4 billion of higher tax revenues, including personal income and sales tax, but the July report found revenues $538.8 million below projections.

“While we hope for better news in the months ahead, every drop in revenues puts us closer to the drastic trigger cuts that could be imposed next year,” said State Controller John Chiang in a statement released Aug. 9.

If the trigger cuts are enacted, Hellenbrand said the CSU will probably pay about one-third of the reduction, leaving the entity’s 23 campuses to make up for the remaining $65 million.

CSUN could pick up about 7 percent of the tab because its total student population accounts for about 7 percent of the total CSU student population, Hellenbrand said.

If the CSU does not pitch in for the cuts, CSUN could pay $7 million, according to the campus budget website.

Officials at the CSU said it’s too early to panic, but admit there is an uneasy feeling surrounding the potential of additional cuts.

“It’s a question mark when the system will be notified of the cut,” said Erik Fallis, CSU spokesman. “There’s no road map.”

Campuses would have very limited options to come up with more money mid-year, Fallis said. The timing makes it more difficult to limit or halt spring enrollment, cut classes or raise tuition, which have been answers to cuts in the past.

As for solutions, there is no clear one in sight.

“We don’t know,” Fallis said. “It really depends on how much time we have.”