Budget Cuts

House Bill 2 threatens to take $30 million dollars of funding from the University of Hawaiʻi

Staff Writer Clara Scheidle
Infographic courtesy of Clara Scheidle
Graphic courtesy of Leah Wyzykowski

Money being cut - illustration

The Hawaiʻi House of Representatives as well as the Senate will soon set up a meeting to discuss the latest bills that were proposed this term. House Bill 2 Senate Draft (SD) 1 and House Bill 116, are now set for conference. An email sent to all University of Hawaiʻi students from announce@hawaii.edu states that this is “a critical time in the legislative session.” During this time, the Senate and the House of Representatives work out their differences and finalize all bills for a vote. The bills would then go to Governor David Ige for approval.

This time, the bills were created and set up on the grounds of a “zero-based budgeting system.” This means that the budget starts at zero and is built up to meet needs. This forces each express to be justified and approved for the new period.

“Legislators understand needs,” says Kalei Rapoza , UH Hilo’s Vice Chancellor of Administrative Affairs. “But they still need to be able to scrutinize them.”

In regards to the UH system, the budget set by these bills was set to cut “about $30 million from the University of Hawaiʻi,” which was mostly going to be done by eradicating “more than 220 faculty and staff positions.”

UH Mānoa was to take the brunt of these losses: 121 positions were set to be eliminated. UH Hilo alone was set to lose about 50 positions, according to Rapoza. Most of the positions being looked at, in UH Hilo’s case, are currently vacant. He continued that this would have no immediate repercussions; however, it would become more difficult in the long run. “It makes it harder to meet needs when they come up,” he says.

In terms of the University of Hawaiʻi’s athletics programs, the system allocates a $3 million dollar budget in non-recurring funds, which includes $2.7 million dollars going to UH Mānoa and $300,000 going towards UH Hilo. The UH system is seeking to have these funds continue. If they do not, the money will have to come from elsewhere.

On March 22, Senator Donna Kim stated in a press release that she intended to restore the 121 UH Mānoa positions that were up for elimination. She continued on to say that new information from the university has rendered these cuts unnecessary. This has yet to be seen, as the final budget forms have yet to be released to the public, on account that they are not available or even been approved as of yet.

Rapoza says that for now, he believes that things are “all good” as they wait for the base budget to approve. There was a certain level of concern throughout the UH System, which resulted in the announcement email being sent out, but he states that “the inquiries that gave rise to the emails have been addressed.”

“I don’t think we’ll be sending another email out until everything is finalized,” Rapoza finishes.

The budget bills are now in the position to go to conference at any time. The website that is linked the March 15 email contains an article written by Kalbert Young, University of Hawaiʻi Vice President for Budget and Finance and Chief Financial Officer, which states that there is much work that needs to be done between the conference committee members to “ensure funding levels with the university can continue to provide, at least, existing levels of services and facilities.” The meeting adjournment for this period will be on May 2.