University of Arizona president Robert Shelton had straight talk time with the Graduate Student Council yesterday.

The whole conversation was interesting, but here I've picked out a few parts for you on hot topics.

On Prop 100

"Prop 100 is the 1-cent sales tax increase. If Prop 100 doesn't pass then the alternative budget that the legislature and the governor put in place takes effect, and for us that means a $41 million permanent cut to our budget on top of everything else that's happened.

If it does pass, then we have no additional budget cut for FY11.

$41 million is a big number. To put it in contect, there are only two sources of state funds that we use that are of that magnitude. One is salaries — roughly 90 percent of all our state funds go into salaries. And the other fund is financial aid. We put about $115 million of tuition money back into financial aid.

So if you arbitrarily say let's take half of that out of salaries, that's easily another 500 positions at $40,000 per position in salary and benefits. That's enormous. We've already eliminated over 500 positions. All of you know from your experience how down to the bone we are.

And then if you take the other $20 million out of financial aid — need based, merit based — $20 million out of $115 is also a big cut.

In either case, the people most effected are the people who lose their jobs and the students, who will have fewer classes being offered and less financial aid.

None of these is a good choice. We are looking at all possibilities of how to deal with that.

Equally important, we are working hard to get the message out about why Prop 100 is important.

About 10 days ago our Foundation had raised significant funds from private donors and sent a check to the Yes on Prop 100 group that's working for the governor and others, sent a check for $250,000."

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"I don't think people who go and vote no are going to voting specifically because they don't want a research university, I think it's going to be more that they just don't want to pay more taxes.

And if it fails that probably means we haven't made the case of just how devastating this is going to be. And I use that word with full intent of what it means. It would be devastating.

What we have to decide is how we can continue to be a great research university with $41 million less.

What that means to eliminating programs, what that means to tuition and fees, and whether we can feather that out over time. ...

It's pretty hard to see an obvious way to eliminate programs that save significant money. ... If you eliminate a whole department, unless all the faculty leave immediately, you really don't save all that much money.

We're trying to think of all the ways in which you can come up with numbers that are in the tens of millions of dollars, not $1 million or $2 million."

On the regents' directive to cut salary spending

"The regents have issued a directive, the wording of which is still being worked out, a directive that will say something like: the universities should reduce their general fund expenditure on salaries and ERE by 2.75 percent for FY10 and FY11.

We're not really sure what this means yet. We'll get greater clarification at a special regents meeting April 30 and May 1 up in Phoenix.

We're interpreting that to have no effect this fiscal year because we already have reduced our general fund expenditures on salaries and ERE by more than 2.75 percent this fiscal year.

And then we look at fiscal year '11 and say what does that really mean? Because we're not being told to give the money back, we're just being told we can't spend it in salaries and benefits.

The total amount, 2.75 percent of general fund salaries, is about $5.3 million.

So then you have to say well what if you have to find $5.3 million and you take it out of this category and move it to this category, how would you do it? Well you would get some just by natural attrition — people retire, people take jobs elsewhere. We don't know how much that might be. If past trends are any indication, maybe that's half of it.

And then, because it's a one-time reduction, it's not a reduction in our permanent budget, we would look at one-time options, for example furloughs. I hate that ‘f' word. I avoided it. It does not solve a problem of your core recurring budget, which is why we've avoided it, but it may be a relevant way to deal with a one-time directive like this. So we're looking at that.

You can calculate all these things out, but it's all theoretical exercises until we get the greater directive from the regents at the end of next month.

If we did furloughs, it would be tiered, it would be different amounts, lower income people would be more protected. But again we haven't settled on that."

On Kindergarten and UA tuition

"There is no doubt in my mind that tuition and fees will continue to go up. It's can we moderate the increase.

Here's an interesting little factoid out in the papers recently. You've heard that many of the K-12 districts are eliminating full-day Kindergarten. They're going back to half-day Kindergarten. And if you want to have your child in full-day Kindergarten, you pay a tuition of $4,000 for that half day.

Well $4,000 is more than half of the tuition we're going to be charging next year.

So if you do a comparison on tuition, it's more expensive to send your child to a half day of Kindergarten than it is to a half day at the university."

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