“It will only get worse from here,” Assistant Chancellor of Budget and Planning Todd Lee warned during the UCSB public budget forum yesterday.

Lee made this statement in the midst of a meeting held by guardians of the university’s finances to discuss UCSB’s current budgetary situation. At the panel, Lee and Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas recapped the ups and downs of the UCSB budget and cautioned those assembled that the mammoth state deficit will continue to drastically impact the University of California.

According to the presentation, UCSB’s 2008-09 budget was subject to increasing reductions due to several factors, namely the three-month delay for the state budget, the worsening of national and state economies and a sub-prime mortgage crisis, which sparked a market crash in fall 2008. The school has cut nearly $16 million in temporary funds for the ’08-09 year to mitigate state demands, Lucas said, which come after a total of $41 million in campuswide cuts from the previous six years.

“We’re cutting a budget that’s been cut numerous times already,” Lucas said.

But the buck doesn’t stop there, Lee said. Factoring in Gov. Schwarzenegger’s May budget revisions and the failure of the May 19 statewide special election, the UC system will most likely have to slash as much as $428 million from its 2009-10 budget. The current UC-wide budget is $3.2 billion.

What trickles down to UCSB out of the UC’s nearly half-billion-dollar budget gouge is merely speculation at this point, according to Lucas. However, he said, UCSB’s total budget – which totals approximately $740 million, with $220 million from state funds – will likely need to downsize by tens of millions next year.

“Specifying the impact on UCSB is unknown pending Regent’s decisions,” Lucas said, “[But] we are actually now looking somewhere that could be in the $30 to $40 million range for next year.”

The UCSB Coordinating Committee on Budget Strategy is in the process of reviewing the cuts proposed by the vice chancellors of each campus department, Lucas said.

“We’ve tried to protect the core mission of the campus in terms of instruction and research,” Lucas said.

Nevertheless, Lucas noted that there are very radical plans being discussed while the UC is in the clutch of such constricting budget restraints. The UC Office of the President is looking at implementing non-resident tuition increases for undergraduates, instituting differential tuition fees by discipline and enacting pay cuts or furloughs. These ideas, Lucas stressed, are still in the discussion stage.

However, Janelle Mungo, a third-year psychology and sociology major, said she felt the budget forum revealed holes in the University’s logic.

“I have too many concerns about the budget. … It’s too disproportionate and they’re not working hard enough to change it,” Mungo said.

According to Chancellor Henry T. Yang, the budget forum will become a regular occurrence on campus because it facilitates cooperation and responsibility among students, faculty and staff.

“The forum today is a good way to convey the importance of transparency and accountability of our budget strategy process to our campus community,” Yang said. “I especially appreciate the good questions, comments and suggestions made by our students and colleagues. We would like to have this kind of open forum periodically in the future to communicate with our campus community.”