SMC — With Santa Monica College facing a $5 million budget gap — and possibly one twice that big if proposed state tax extensions fail to pass — SMC President Chui Tsang has ordered a hiring freeze at the 1,800-employee institution.

Tsang notified administrators about the freeze on Wednesday, saying in a memo the move was “in recognition of the alarming reduction in funding the college is receiving from the state of California.”

State funding is down nearly 10 percent over the past three years, he said.

The freeze covers all employment groups, including the 1,300-member full- and part-time faculty.

“No request for new or replacement staff positions will be considered unless determined to be essential to sustain a mission-critical function of the college,” Tsang wrote in the memo.

He said positions approved for recruitment as of Wednesday, including full-time faculty positions targeted for fall semester, would not be affected.

“This is the worst economic downturn that we’re facing of all the years I’ve been involved in education, and it poses a huge challenge for us,” he said in an interview this week.

The college did not release an estimate of how much money the hiring freeze was expected to save, but Tsang said it was a necessary step as the college moves to shore up its financial outlook.

Calls to the SMC Faculty Association and to Eric Oifer, president of the college’s Academic Senate, were not returned on Friday.

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