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ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER EDITORIAL: Extreme CSUF home makeover unseemly
June 12, 2012
The $300,000 renovation, although funded by a nonprofit, comes amid spiking CSU tuition.
Maybe this isn't the best time to spruce up Cal State Fullerton President Mildred Garcia's university-owned home, in part to host the equivalent of toga parties for the administrator set.
The Register reported Saturday that the school is completing $300,000 in renovations for the "6,991-square-foot house with eight bedrooms and seven bathrooms, along with a guesthouse, tennis courts and even an observation tower." The hilltop house was built in 1919, sits on 4.5 acres and was donated to the school in 1989. "Crews are upgrading electrical wiring, installing new flooring, painting, updating the kitchen and making other repairs."
A large tree is intruding on the exterior of the historic El Dorado Ranch in Fullerton. Cal State Fullerton's new incoming president, Mildred Garcia, will reside here.
The residence, in addition to housing the president, "also hosts dozens of receptions annually for international visitors, donors, alumni and community and campus members." The money comes from a school nonprofit group.
Not surprisingly, students and professors are complaining that the money is being spent at a time of tight state and university budgets. According to the Cal State website, "[F]ull-time tuition fee per academic year has increased from $1,428 in 2001-02 to $5,472 effective fall 2011" – a 283 percent increase in just a decade. Another $500 increase is slated for this fall. And since 2008, staff has been cut by 4,125 positions, or 8.8 percent.
The reason for the renovations, as provided by CSUF Associate Vice President Jay W. Bond, the campus architect: "I don't think it's a waste of money, given the condition this house is in, and the purposes it serves. Some sections of this home are stately and gorgeous. Others are in a sad state of disrepair."
State Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Redondo Beach, isn't buying it. "I question the timing of the renovations," he told us. "It sends the wrong message. They should have put it off." The pre-renovation structure, he said, "was good enough for the previous president," Milton A. Gordon, who had served from 1990 until his recent retirement. "I'm not sure why it wouldn't be good enough for the current president."
Mr. Lieu added that he recently turned down needed renovations on his Senate office. And before jumping to the Senate in 2011, as chairman of the Assembly Rules Committee he turned down all requests for office renovations from other Assembly members.
Mr. Lieu has been a leading senator decrying the high pay and compensation going to Cal State presidents. For example, the average Cal State president's salary is just below $300,000 a year, according to a survey by CalWatchDog.com. San Diego State President Elliot Hirschman's salary is $400,000 a year. Ms. Garcia makes $324,000 a year, plus a $12,000 car allowance and the renovated digs.
By contrast, the California Citizens Compensation Commission just cut pay 5 percent for Gov. Jerry Brown, all other statewide officeholders and state legislators. Gov. Brown now will get $165,318. And legislators will get $90,526. Legislators also get per-diem of $142 a day when the Legislature is in session.
Put another way, Mr. Hirschman's salary is 2.4 times as much as that of Gov. Brown, who runs the whole state government.
State Sen. Elaine K. Alquist has sponsored Senate Bill 952, which places a moratorium on any more CSU employees earning more than $200,000 a year until July 1, 2014. And from then until July 1, 2018, it caps their pay raises at 10 percent a year. The bill passed the Senate on May 21 with a 36-1 vote. It currently is being considered in the Assembly Committee on Higher Education. We urge its passage there and in the full Assembly, followed by Gov. Brown's signature.
But let's go further. How about legislation giving decisions on Cal State presidents' pay, and perks like housing, to the California Citizens Compensation Commission? Somebody has to look out for the interests of students, professors and taxpayers.