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* More state budget cuts on the way

While Shoreline Community College was getting ready to welcome students for fall quarter, the state budget headlines included a financial emergency declaration, the likelihood for more cuts, another special legislative session and little reason for immediate economic optimism.

Still, Shoreline President Lee Lambert said that previous planning and budgetary prudence may give the college some help in weathering the storm.

On Sept. 14, 2011, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges voted unanimously to declare a financial emergency for the community and technical college system.  

The emergency declaration provides colleges with the authority to expedite layoffs for tenured and tenure-track faculty. The Legislature adopted the process in the 1980s to address the job security provided for faculty in the state’s tenure laws.

President Lee Lambert said the State Board’s action doesn’t mean the declaration will be used at Shoreline. To invoke the declaration, each college’s Board of Trustees makes separate decisions based on the situation at each school. Lambert said Thursday, Sept. 15, that it is too soon to know if he would make that recommendation to Shoreline’s Board of Trustees.

“These are extraordinarily challenging times, requiring us to make many difficult decisions, including this one,” SBCTC Chair Sharon Fairchild said in a press release. She acknowledged the collaborative decision-making process colleges engage in when addressing the impact of budget cuts on faculty, staff and students and encouraged continuation of that collaboration.

Also Thursday, Gov. Chris Gregoire told the Seattle Times that she will likely call a special legislative session sometime after the next economic forecast, scheduled for November. Gregoire said she wanted to wait in case things get worse, according to the report.

Gregoire’s comments came just hours after the September economic forecast was released. That report said the state’s revenue losses are deepening due to the ongoing economic crisis. While the report pegs the current shortfall at $1.4 billion, Gregoire told the Times that she could be looking for something closer to $2 billion to make sure the state has some reserves.

In August, Gregoire asked all state agencies, including Shoreline, to plan for cuts of 5-10 percent in the current year.

At the same time the state forecast was being unveiled, President Lambert was addressing hundreds of college faculty and staff members at the Fall Convocation. Lambert said that good planning and budgetary prudence has put the college in a relatively good place to deal with the cuts.

“While I don’t like the idea of using one-time money to cover ongoing expenses, this may be a special case,” Lambert said.

If the cuts are 5 percent, unlikely based on Thursday’s state economic news; the college may be able to cover the loss. If they are 10 percent, Lambert said, “That could be a little tougher, but maybe still possible.” If the cuts go above 10 percent, he said the college would likely need to make some reductions.

Lambert said the special factors at play include the new strategic initiatives of bringing more international students to Shoreline, the expansion of online classes and student services and pursuit of new partnerships.

“We’re already seeing some improvement in these areas and they’re just getting started,” Lambert said. “I believe that we can get through this and have the college not just survive, but thrive.”

SCC/Jim Hills

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