California State University, Long Beach, President Stephen Horn has been relieved of much of his budgetary authority pending an investigation by the State University chancellor's office of an estimated $800,000 shortfall in the university's budget for this year.
According to Vice Chancellor D. Dale Hanner, whose office is conducting the investigation, the curtailment of Horn's fiscal independence will prevent him from approving financial transfers among academic programs, hiring new personnel, budgeting costs for facilities or approving pay raises and major purchases without prior approval from the chancellor's office.
Hanner said the move was "unusual but not unique," adding that it has happened systemwide only two or three times in the last decade.
"If you were a race-car driver and you'd just had an accident, you'd slow down the pack to 60 miles per hour until you knew what actually happened," Hanner said.
He said the curtailment of Horn's powers did not imply any wrongdoing on the part of the president and that Horn had not resisted the move. A decision on whether to reinstate Horn's budgetary powers, Hanner said, would be made in about a week after a four-member team of financial experts now on the campus has reviewed the situation and reported on its findings.
Attending Meeting in Washington
Horn, reportedly in Washington, attending a meeting of the American Council of Education, could not be reached for comment.
"It was a longstanding commitment," said Eugene Asher, head of university relations and a special assistant to Horn. "(Horn) is meticulous about keeping his commitments."
The chancellor's office first became aware of the shortfall in June after it had to send a $1-million subsidy to meet the Long Beach university's payroll obligations.
According to Asher, the budget shortfall was caused by "an overly rosy estimate" of revenues expected by the university this year.
Specifically, Asher said, Cal State Long Beach planners had erred by overestimating the number of employees who would leave the university, thus at least temporarily freeing their salaries for other purposes; had failed to anticipate changes in the student fee structure allowing students to take more academic units for the same price, and had experienced greater-than-expected revenue losses resulting from fee-waiver programs by which senior citizens and university employees can take courses at greatly reduced fees.
In addition to the curtailment imposed by the chancellor's office, Asher said, university officials have already instituted other cost-saving measures, including a reduction in the number of institutional memberships and subscriptions and the increased monitoring of travel expenses by university staff and faculty members.
Asher said he has been serving as acting president since Saturday when Horn left campus to attend a meeting of the board of the National Institute for Corrections, of which he is chairman. From Colorado, Asher said, Horn traveled to Washington, D.C., for a meeting today of the American Council on Education, of which he is a member.
"He's never long out of touch except maybe when he's in China," said Asher, adding that the president was aware of the situation on campus.
Horn, 55, was expected to return to campus on Friday, according to Asher. Horn has been president of the university since 1970.