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* Budget concerns front and center

Shoreline Community College administrators, faculty and staff are moving quickly to respond to real and anticipated impacts of the rapidly changing state and federal economic climate.


On Tuesday, Nov. 18, the College Council approved an all-campus meeting set for 12:30-2 p.m., Monday, Dec. 8. Due to the anticipated interest, the meeting will be in the PUB Main Dining Room, which can accommodate about 300 people. While not an ideal date for faculty preparing for finals that start the next day, the council decided a chance for dialogue on the unprecedented economic downturn and possible impacts to the college outweighed other factors. The meeting will be videotaped for those who can’t attend. The council includes representatives from all campus constituencies.


At their regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 19, members of the college budget committee heard grim news from SCC President Lee Lambert. Earlier in the day, Lambert and other college presidents participated in a conference call with State Board of Community and Technical Colleges Executive Director Charlie Earl.


Lambert outlined recent budgetary news the college has received from the state board. He noted that this past summer, it appeared the college would need to identify savings of $200,000-$300,000. “We looked at the situation, anticipating that problem would grow, and went further,” Lambert said. “We identified about $600,000 and it was a good thing we did.”


Since then, Lambert said, economic news has worsened and noted that also on Wednesday, Nov. 19, the state released a new economic forecast.


“Today, unfortunately, the number has doubled again,” Lambert told committee members of the forecast that has implications for the current year budget. And, he said, Earl told the presidents to be prepared to look at massive reductions for the next biennium. “Depending on the cuts, that number could go as high as 20-30 percent.”


Lambert said it isn’t clear just how Shoreline and the entire community college system would achieve such a deep cut. “What is clear, at the end of the day, the state has a $5 billion problem and we will get to that number.”


Lambert said there are two problems, one for this budget year and one for the coming biennium that starts July 1, 2009.


“If things stay the way they are, we’ve already identified about $1.2 million for this (academic) year,” he said, meaning that as of now, that could see the college through the current budget. The President’s Senior Executive Team (PSET) identified those savings primarily through presently unfilled positions, cutting discretionary spending and percentage reductions in current budgets.


For the second problem, Lambert asked the committee for help, possibly in very short order.


“Charlie Earl may come to us very soon and ask how we would cut 30 percent for the coming biennium,” Lambert said. “What I’m asking for is help on the process in a short timeframe. This may come before the (Dec. 8) all-campus meeting.”


Lambert said that no decisions have been made, but all options may be on the table. He said there has been some talk about combining or even closing some colleges. “At the 20-30 percent level, some of the smaller colleges couldn't survive," he said.


“I just hope we have the opportunity to decide for ourselves. It may be that they tell us where to cut,” he said. “What I’m hoping will happen is the state says, ‘Here’s the cut number,’ then the state board says, ‘Here’s your part,’ and then the college gets to decide how to get there.”


Budget committee member and faculty member Guy Hamilton asked with such a deep potential cut, would the state set lower student target numbers, or “rebase” the college.


“Most of the presidents would say, ‘Yes, you’ve got to rebase us,’ but I don’t know,” Lambert said. He added that assuming a 30 percent cut, that would leave SCC with about 3,500 student FTEs, or full-time equivalents. The college is currently funded for about 5,200 FTEs.


If the college is forced into limiting enrollment, committee and faculty member Bob Francis asked, “Is there any infrastructure in place to say ‘no’ to students?


“No,” Lambert said. “It might be first-come, first-served. We do have some selective programs now such as nursing and automotive. This would be a systemwide problem.”


Lambert said he’s not asking the committee to suggest cuts, but either help establish criteria for cuts, or review criteria suggested by the administration.


Susan Hoyne, a committee member and Dean of Science/Automotive and Manufacturing, said the deans and Vice President of Academic Affairs John Backes have been working to review all academic programs in terms of students served and costs. Hoyne noted that with nearly 85 percent of the college budget going to personnel, a 30 percent cut would undoubtedly impact people and instruction.


Earlier, Lambert said such program information is important, but that other factors should be considered, too. “Cuts in one area may hurt us somewhere else we don’t want to cut,” he said.


At the Nov. 19 meeting, budget committee chair and faculty member Carla Hogan appointed a subcommittee to immediately begin working with Lambert, Vice President for Administrative Services Daryl Campbell and the rest of PSET on criteria for 2009-10 budget decisions.

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