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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Backers Believe Governor Will Fund Campus

Education: Officials expect Davis will include in his revised budget $10 million for CSU Channel Islands that he previously omitted.

May 11, 2000|FRED ALVAREZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

University supporters say they are confident that Gov. Gray Davis will grant a $10-million budget request for Ventura County's fledgling Cal State campus when he unveils his revised spending plan next week.

Davis rejected the funding request when he issued his preliminary budget in January, saying CSU officials needed to make more progress on development of a campus in Stockton before he funneled any money to the Channel Islands campus near Camarillo.

But university officials said Wednesday that they have addressed most of the issues at Stockton, clearing the way for the governor to hand over money needed to craft academic programs at the local campus and open it on schedule in 2002.

"By this time next week, I anticipate everything will be back on schedule," CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed said after a meeting Wednesday in Long Beach to review the funding issues.

"I think CSU has done its due diligence in addressing the governor's concerns," he added. "We're ready to send out the invitation to have him come cut the tape at the grand opening."

The governor is scheduled Monday to release his revised budget for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Even if it includes money for CSU Channel Islands, the allocation--along with the rest of the budget--would still have to undergo review by the state Legislature before Davis could grant final approval this summer.

Local lawmakers, however, have already taken steps to protect the $10 million should it be set aside next week.

State Sen. Jack O'Connell (D-San Luis Obispo) has asked his colleagues to keep the $10-million allocation in the Senate's higher-education budget. Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) has made the same request of a budget subcommittee in the lower house.

Both legislators say they are optimistic that Davis will grant the allocation this time.

And O'Connell said he wouldn't be surprised if Davis set aside even more for Channel Islands, given a budget surplus estimated to be between $11 billion and $16 billion.

"If he were to exceed the funding request and accelerate development of the university, I would not fall over," O'Connell said. "The governor has historically been extremely supportive of the development of the Channel Islands campus . . . and I'm optimistic that, at the very least, full funding will be included in his budget."

The money--intended to establish a permanent operating budget for the Channel Islands campus--would allow university officials to hire key faculty to craft the academic programs that will serve as the foundation for new campus, under development at the former Camarillo State Hospital site.

University officials had hoped to start that process already, but Davis dashed those plans by tying funding for Channel Islands to development of the Stockton satellite campus of Cal State Stanislaus.

Although the governor said he was fully committed to providing additional funding for Cal State Channel Islands, he said he wanted CSU officials to figure out what went wrong with efforts to establish a range of income-generating ventures aimed at offsetting operating costs at the Stockton campus.

Davis linked the campuses because of their similar development plans.

In both cases, CSU officials are converting shuttered mental hospitals into college campuses. Both are now satellite campuses of Cal State universities. And both are counting on leasing unused buildings and launching commercial ventures to raise money for expansion.

But the similarities end there. Stockton will remain a branch campus of Cal State Stanislaus, while the Camarillo site--which opened last fall as a branch of Cal State Northridge--is expected to evolve into a full-fledged institution by fall 2002.

Moreover, the Stockton campus has made little headway on its plan for tapping private development, while the Camarillo site has signed private tenants, drawn up a blueprint for development around the campus core and established a nonprofit agency responsible for luring commercial ventures to the 630-acre property.

Channel Islands President Handel Evans said that if Davis earmarks the $10 million for Channel Islands next week, he would immediately launch the hiring process for about two dozen faculty planners who would be responsible for defining the university's curriculum and designing programs of study for each degree to be offered.

"I am waiting with bated breath, but I am breathing, I'm not holding my breath," Evans said.

"All of the planning and community support that have gone into this so far have really demonstrated that this project is desirable and financially feasible, and we anticipate that the governor will support us now in a very positive manner."

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