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* Budget uncertainties impact sabbaticals; officials look for funding alternatives

State and federal budget vagaries are sending Shoreline Community College officials back to the drawing board to find possible funding sources for innovation-related proposals from faculty members.

Letter from Board Chair

Shoreline Community College Board Chair Phil Barrett sent a letter Friday, March 1, 2013, to all college employees and students to expand on his views regarding budget concerns and sabbaticals and urging all to work together to find solutions.

The issue came up at the Feb. 27, 2013 Board of Trustees meeting. On the agenda was a recommendation to forego funding for eight faculty sabbatical leaves during the 2013-14 school year. While the board voted 3-1 to approve the recommendation to not fund the leaves, the trustees also urged faculty and administrators to look for alternatives.

“Personally, I’m going to vote in support of the recommendation because of the budget uncertainties,” said Board Chair Phil Barrett. “But, I want all of you to start talking.”

Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs James Jansen presented the recommendation that came from him, President Lee Lambert and the other two vice presidents, Daryl Campbell and Stephen Smith. 

Jansen noted the considerable unpredictability of federal and state budgets. He acknowledged that under such circumstances, the administration didn’t feel it was wise to commit to funding sabbaticals, a program that has been on hold for the past two years due to previous budget cuts.

Lambert said that a worst-case scenario at the state and federal levels could mean as much as another 25 percent sliced from the college budget, an amount equivalent to all the cuts that occurred over the past four years.

In the open comment period of the meeting prior to the vote, a number of faculty members spoke in favor of retaining sabbatical funding or perhaps delaying the decision until more is known about the state and federal budgets and the implications for college funds.

“What I’m hearing is a lot about what could happen, virtual budget cuts,” said faculty member Neal Vasishth. “Let’s wait for the real numbers.”

Lambert and Amy Kinsel, faculty union president, confirmed that discussions did occur about delaying a decision. The faculty contract calls for sabbaticals to be considered in February and there was skepticism that there would be significantly more information in another month or even a final budget by the session’s scheduled end of April 28.

Barrett said that while all of that may be true, he wants to find a solution.

“I’m totally in agreement with the sabbatical concept,” Barrett said. “But, the Governor owed us a budget 45 days ago and he has not delivered. We are stuck in budget never-never land.”

During his presentation, Jansen said there was the possibility of finding other ways to fund the projects outlined in the sabbatical proposals. A potential option, he said, could be the Innovation and Opportunities Reserve adopted by the trustees this past September as part of a new overall reserves policy.

Barrett and the other board members mulled a second motion to instruct college officials to review the faculty proposals for possible alternative funding sources. In the end, they decided their views would be reflected in the meeting minutes and that a motion was unnecessary.

“I want everyone to know that we, the Board of Trustees, support the value in these proposals,” Barrett said.

In a message to faculty members sent Friday afternoon, Kinsel wrote: " ... the Board instructed the President and the faculty to work together to explore tapping into funds from the President's innovation reserve to support innovative faculty projects, potentially including some of the submitted sabbatical proposals."

SCC/Jim Hills

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