U.C. Merced Prepares for Possible Cuts

Merced, Calif. The U.C. Merced campus is quiet now that most students have taken off for the summer. But there is a buzz among remaining employees about the possibility of pay cuts as the U.C. system tries to deal with an $800 million dollar budget shortfall.

Cynthia Donahue, U.C. Merced Academic Advisor said "It will be hard. I'm a single mom right now, so it will definitely affect me just all around, pay cuts are never good."

Donna Takash, U.C. Merced Administrative Assistant said "It will impact my family definitely. We're gonna have to make some severe adjustments somewhere, and we don't know where yet. Probably have to get rid of my car."

U.C. leaders are considering three options to save money. One would cut salaries by eight percent for those earning more than $46,000 dollars a year and four percent for those earning less. Another would require all employees to take 21 unpaid furlough days, and a third would combine furlough days and pay cuts.

"They're obviously painful cuts. They all amount to about an 8 percent cut in salary, it's just a matter of how it will be implemented." Spokesperson Patti Waid Istas said U.C. Merced has already taken steps to trim spending, including a hiring freeze and limited travel. She said employees understand the challenges at the state level, but many feel this is not the time to take money away from a university that helps fuel the local economy.

"University of California in general has always been a tremendous economic stimulus for the state, and here in the Valley. U.C. Merced just in salaries alone we have $5.1 million dollar monthly payroll," said Istas.

U.C. students have already learned they'll pay the price for the funding shortage with a 9.3 percent fee increase next year. And now faculty and staff members are preparing to feel the financial pain as well. "We're a growing campus. I think there are other options, don't know what they are yet, but I think it will be very hard for all of us," said Donna Takash.

The U.C. Board of Regents is set to approve a version of the pay cut plan next month.

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