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Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

Where's the Money?

We get letters:

Chris,

Enjoy your blog!

One aspect I have never seen mentioned as UC faces what it -- once again -- seems to hope will be temporary budget cuts is the use of unrestricted funds that sit as unexpended balances on the various campuses. I have heard a figure quoted for UCSD (from a reliable source) of about $ 0.75 B for such unexpended balances, and -- looking at the overall UC financial statements -- would not be surprised to learn this amounted to as much as $6 B across the whole system.

Are you aware of how much is available on the various campuses or at OP? Or even how one could find that out? Once that total amount is known, how would one learn the amount that is sensibly available for use? I am sure that some has been accumulated for particular purposes (e.g., new roofs on campus housing), but feel sure that much could be brought to bear on the present crisis.

On another note, it may well be that this budget crisis will encourage appropriate clarity and transparency, but somehow I doubt it. I have found how hard it is to actually reconcile (at least in my own mind) the expenditures for my own department in the UC Financial Schedules with the information we get in our own annual financial report, or that which is given to us in the form of a budget indicating how our "discretionary" funds (UC "core" funds + local ICR + unrestricted private funds) are allocated to various activities. This is -- in part -- a hazard of the fund-based accounting system; in part, I fear, a comfort with restricted transparency.

Other examples I have found to have limited clarity are: the amounts of money used to provide student aid; the costs related to the construction, operation, and maintenance of University buildings; the overhead on doing sponsored research (you addressed this in your
blog); the algorithms employed at UCOP to divide up funds between the various campuses; the extent to which other University services (e.g., Medical or Auxiliary Services) could be used to generate revenue to support the I&R aspects of the University; . . .

How can we (UC Faculty) pressure the system to improve? Your blog can inform, but it will take significant work to get the budget to make sense (perhaps a Quixotic endeavor?).

Regards, Andrew Dickson, Professor of Marine Chemistry, UC San Diego and Scripps
Member Emeritus, UCPB

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