Sunday, May 31

Campus closure saves cash

An estimated $250,000 spared, but some staff think they are cheated by forced vacation days

UCLA was closed for nine days during the winter holidays as part of an energy-conservation plan to save the campus an estimated $250,000.

The winter closure from Dec. 24 to Jan. 1 helped to compensate for some of the increased costs of utilities after a rise in prices not accounted for in the 2008-2009 university budget, according to the UCLA Today Web site.

“The increased cost for purchased utilities is due to higher rates for electricity purchased from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and higher prices for natural gas to operate the UCLA Cogeneration Plant,” said Jack Powazek, associate vice chancellor of General Services in charge of Facilities Management.

While most nonessential campus buildings were closed, some facilities and services deemed essential by the deans and vice chancellors, such as the UCLA Hospital System, remained open during the winter closure.

Although faculty and staff had paid holidays on Dec. 24, 25, 31 and Jan. 1, they had to use vacation time or leave without pay for Dec. 26, 29 and 30.

“As faculty operate on a salary basis and have no designated vacation days as such, our personal finances are not affected at all by winter closure,” said Andrew Sabl, associate professor of public policy and political science.

Members of the staff who had enough vacation hours to spare were paid on the three days that vacation time was mandated.

“I’m maxing out my vacation time where it is now ““ use it or lose it,” said Duy Dang, senior administrative analyst for the mechanical and aerospace engineering department. “It didn’t matter to me in terms of getting paid.”

Some staffers under the Staff and Academic Reduction in Time Program were compelled to use vacation time. The program allows certain staff members to voluntarily reduce their working time and corresponding pay in exchange for advantages such as accumulation of vacation time.

“In terms of savings, I know we are saving money considering the situation with the state budget, but I also know that some employees under the START Program felt they were shortchanged,” Dang said. “They were forced to utilize their vacation time for the three days of leave without pay.”

Powazek said that while there is no similar energy-conservation plan for spring break, the campus has the Summer Sunday Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Reduction Program, which was initiated in 2005.

Under the program, during Sundays from late June to mid-September and during the July 4 and Labor Day weekends, the air-conditioning systems in about 25 campus buildings are turned down significantly or turned off.

“This conservation measure has saved approximately $200,000 annually,” Powazek said.

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