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UC announces efficiency plans aimed at saving millions

May 19, 2010 | 11:06 am

http://latimes.image2.trb.com/lanews/media/photo/2009-07/47873469.jpgThe University of California will try to reduce its administrative, purchasing and energy costs by about $500 million a year by 2015 in an attempt to shield its teaching and research missions from any further cuts in state funding, officials said Wednesday.

The push for efficiencies could somewhat change UC’s institutional culture from a relatively loose system of 10 campuses to a more centralized university when it comes to non-academic matters, they said. However, UC leaders said they want campuses and departments to maintain independence in the classrooms and labs.

"It will involve some inconvenience for people," UC President Mark G. Yudof said at the UC regents meeting in San Francisco. "But for some slight inconvenience, we can save a lot of money and be in the position to put it back in students, faculty and staff, where it belongs in the first place."

The announcement comes at a politically sensitive time, a few days after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed severe cutbacks in social service and health funding for the poor while restoring $305 million of the funding chopped from UC last year. Angry about fee increases and job furloughs, student activists and labor unions say UC is top-heavy with high-paid administrators, so the university system is under pressure to show that it can be more efficient and frugal.

Peter J. Taylor, the UC system’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, said similar, although less ambitious, efficiency efforts were suggested in the past but had not been fully implemented because urgency evaporated when the state economy improved. Now, the state’s deficit problems are here for the long haul and UC must dramatically streamline, he said.

"Our money comes from taxpayers and students. This is an attempt to firmly represent to them that we are good stewards of their money," Taylor said in an interview. "And part of it is working smarter."

Among other things, more unified purchasing for supplies, from copy paper to medical equipment, could save $100 million a year, he said. Other areas to be explored are shared data centers, common payroll systems and centralized human resources departments.

-- Larry Gordon in San Francisco

Photo: UCLA campus. L.A. Times file