Fresno State would have to ax $11 million later this year from its already bare-bones budget if a state tax measure proposed for the November ballot fails, President John Welty said Wednesday in a sobering message to the university community.
That cut -- amounting to about 5% of the university's budget -- would come on top of the $5.4 million cut the campus absorbed in December and would be "impossible" to take, Welty said.
"For the last three and a half years, our ability to meet the needs of students and our region has been stretching and stretching -- nearly to the breaking point -- because our elected officials have abandoned the state's commitment to higher education," Welty said at the spring assembly at California State University, Fresno.
Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed raising taxes on the wealthy and increasing the sales tax by a half-cent to raise about $6.9 billion a year. If voters reject the tax plan in the November election, it will trigger a $200 million cut each to the California State University and University of California systems at the end of this year.
Because the outcome won't be known until November -- halfway through the school year -- Fresno State would have to make up the massive losses after about half of its budget has been spent.
Welty broke the painful news at the university's faculty assembly, held at the start of each semester, where the same emotions that educators have expressed over the past year were prevalent during a question-and-answer session at the end of the assembly: anger with the state for not making higher education a priority, resentment over layoffs and pay freezes, and frustration over burdening students with higher tuition.
Finding $11 million to slice out of the university's $220 million budget is an overwhelming task, Welty said. The $498 per-year tuition increase students face next fall helps cover the shortfall from December's cuts -- but that increase won't cover more cuts, Welty said.
Welty said that he will have a plan for dealing with the potential cuts by mid-February after the CSU Board of Trustees meets later this month on next year's budget.
Welty said in an email that "it's impossible to determine" right now what areas would be cut.
CSU spokesman Michael Uhlenkamp said the system will have a plan after the state's revised budget in May.
While no decisions have been made, Uhlenkamp said, tuition increases, layoffs, class reductions, enrollment limits "and other painful options" would all be considered.
Fresno State leaders may have to cut from academics, which makes up almost three-quarters of the university's budget.
Already the campus is weighing budget cuts to offset a $2 million deficit this year. Those cuts would take effect in the fiscal year that begins in July. A task force of deans and faculty is making final decisions this month on recommendations -- including the contentious proposal to eliminate the College of Science and Mathematics.
But Provost William Covino, who directed the group to find the savings, said Wednesday he may have been too optimistic. The $2 million budget gap is based on an old budget and doesn't take into consideration the December cuts or any forthcoming cuts -- so the group may have to find more to trim.
"Just meeting payroll exhausts the base budget" in some of the university's schools and colleges, Covino said.
Covino will announce his decisions next month. An audit this month will offer more information. The university has been tapping its reserves to help cover costs, and Covino said he wasn't sure how long they can continue to drain the reserves.