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Furloughs or pay cuts are on UH docket


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POSTED: Wednesday, July 01, 2009

University of Hawaii President David McClain says salary reductions—whether through furloughs or pay cuts—will have to be part of the university's response to cutting about $155 million from its budget over the next two years.

McClain and other UH administrators testified at a budget briefing at the Legislature yesterday about the university's plans to deal with $48 million in budget cuts passed by the Legislature in May and an additional $107 million in budget restrictions imposed by the governor.

“;When you stress a system this much, something is going to break,”; said UH-Manoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw. “;There is an impact on students. There's no question about it.”;

Hinshaw said UH-Manoa, the largest campus, is facing the bulk of the cuts. She said UH-Manoa is not renewing 150 positions and about 500 classes are “;on hold”; unless funding can be found for them.

McClain told lawmakers that about 200 UH administrators whose salaries total about $30 million will “;lead the way”; with pay cuts.

But McClain said the university is waiting to see what the courts rule before looking at whether furloughs will be imposed at UH.

He said the impact on students could be minimized if the furlough days fall on scheduled holidays and during the spring and winter breaks.

The UH president said the university also hopes to continue bargaining with the faculty union and other public worker unions, although no new contract talks are scheduled.

The contract with the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly expired yesterday and McClain said the administration and the union disagree over whether it is automatically extended.

McClain anticipates that about 40 percent of the budget cuts will come from personnel cost reductions, 40 percent from a reduction in classes and programs, and about 20 percent through saving electricity and other efficiencies.

The cuts come as the university is preparing for a record enrollment of more than 60,000 students this fall.

John Morton, the UH vice president for community colleges, said enrollment at the seven community colleges is up 25 percent from this time last year and they are trying to make sure there are enough classes to accommodate the growth.

“;Those people signing up for those classes are desperately trying to get out of this economic downturn,”; he said. “;We're part of the solution (to the economic downturn).”;

But Morton said the community colleges will not be able to offer the extra classes needed to accommodate new students with faculty and staff salary cuts.

Sen. Dwight Takamine (D, Hilo) questioned the impact of the cuts on the public higher education system.

“;Perhaps we're cutting through the bone or breaking the bone,”; he said. “;Are we crippling the capability of the University of Hawaii and community colleges to provide essential services?”;

But after the hearing, Takamine said he did not have specific ideas on how to reduce the cuts proposed for UH. “;I don't know if there's just one way,”; he said.

UH-Hilo Chancellor Rose Tseng said her priority is to preserve math and science, especially as UH-Hilo develops a new pharmacy college. Tseng said the university is looking at reducing library hours, janitorial services and possibly athletics.