UC Berkeley’s chief financial officer, Rosemarie Rae, laid out her vision for the campus’s budget and took questions from a standing-room-only audience of faculty, students and staff during a Friday forum.
Rae, who has served as the campus’s top budget mind since 2017, oversees UC Berkeley’s $2.8 billion budget and is one of the key administration leaders tasked with finding a sustainable model for the campus, which is trying to shrink a $110 million budget deficit.
The first speaker in a new series called Campus Conversations, Rae told the assembled group of staff that her office hoped to end the campus’s decade-old deficit by the 2020 fiscal year. So far this year, she said, campus units are on track to reduce the overall deficit to $57 million, through a combination of new revenues and expense reductions.
“We have to stabilize our operations,” Rae said. “Employees need to know that the place that they work is a stable environment and that they are going to have a reasonable workload. Faculty needs to know what we’re going to be able to invest in their research and also ensure a reasonable workload.”
“We need to move to a place from where we just survive, to where we thrive,” Rae added, borrowing a line often used by Chancellor Carol Christ. “And to thrive we’ve got to get to a balanced budget.”
Besides stability, Rae said, a balanced budget would let the campus buy bonds and other investments to pay for new academic buildings. UC system regulations prevent campuses from using debt to finance capital expenses without a balanced budget.
Rae also took questions from staff, including what the administration stood to gain from paying for part of the $314 million seismic retrofit of Memorial Stadium and what hopes Rae had for increased support from the state. In her answers, Rae laid out the stadium’s debt costs and said the chancellor would be making a decision later this year. As for increased state support? Don’t count on it, Rae said.
“It is important to understand the collective challenges that we face, and collaborate on them together,” Jon Conhaim, a 28-year employee of UC Berkeley who is project manager in the campus’s IT department said after hearing Rae speak. “We have to figure out how to work hard on these problems, and not be hard on one another.”
Others, like Brianna Vandre, who just started as a financial analyst on campus last week, said she just appreciated the chance to learn about UC Berkeley’s budget.
“I feel like this gave me a really broad overview of how it all works,” she said.
Rae encouraged faculty, staff and students to contact her office with additional questions.
“The most important thing leaders need to be doing on campus is earning the trust of everyone on campus,” Rae said. “It comes from making commitments and honoring them. It also comes from being very transparent about decision making and ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to participate.”
Future Campus Conversations scheduled this semester will hear from Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos on February 12, Vice Chancellor for Administration Marc Fisher on March 22 and Chancellor Carol Christ on April 24.
Contact Will Kane at firstname.lastname@example.org