At the second in a series of brown-bag lunches focusing on budget issues, Shoreline Community College President Lee Lambert outlined challenges on the horizon.
Laying a Foundation may take some investment
Shoreline Community College needs more money, but it could take spending some to make some, Shoreline Community College President Lee Lambert said at a budget-focused, brown-bag lunch discussion, Dec. 15, 2009 in the PUB Quiet Dining Room.
“I believe we’ll have to invest in our Foundation to get it to the point where it can be a significant help to the college,” Lambert said.
Lambert said the college needs to reduce its reliance on state support and is taking steps to increase dollars from grants and contracts. The efforts of Judith Hansen, who came to SCC this fall for part-time help on grants, are already paying off, he said.
Lambert acknowledged that adding resources anywhere at a time of cuts could be seen as difficult, but that the college can’t wait or depend on more money from the state. He said state support has continued to decline, with more cost burden shifted to students in the form of tuition.
“There is talk about new taxes,” Lambert said, adding that if a tax hike is approved, any help, “doesn’t appear it would include higher education.”
A healthier foundation, however, is something that would help the college, he said. The details of how a foundation is structured and tied to the college are important.
“There are two schools of thought,” said Lambert, calling them “self-support and “college support.”
“Clark College has the self-support model,” Lambert said, adding that in some cases, a completely autonomous foundation can lose touch with college needs. He also said that a self-support model at Centralia Community College failed. “Ours is 100 percent on the college, but that also has problems. The best is 51 percent college, 49 percent self-support.”
“Gov. Gregoire’s recently released budget sets the stage for the conversation in Olympia,” Lambert told the group of about 35 gathered Dec. 15, 2009 in the PUB Quiet Dining Room. “It won’t be the budget we end up with, but it does outline the challenge.”
Lambert noted that this fall, higher-education officials had been expecting to deal with an $80 million cut. The Governor’s budget pegs that number at $89 million, about 11 percent more than anticipated. However, it isn’t clear how that reduction, or any number that comes in a final budget, would be allocated to colleges and universities across the state.
Despite the uncertainties, Lambert said it appears that Shoreline’s share could be in the $1.5-million to $2-million range. “The problem is that 85 percent of our operating budget is for people,” Lambert said. “We can’t do this without impacting people.”
Another challenge for Shoreline’s budget, he said, is the college pays those people. “In terms of students served, we’re the 10th largest community college in the state, despite having the smallest catchment area,” he said. “However, we rank No 3 in faculty costs, sixth in classified employee costs and 12th in administrative costs.”
Making any cuts will be difficult, especially if the state continues to hold to the current student-number targets for higher-education. Lambert acknowledged the strain the college is feeling now, with the specter of being asked to continue with even fewer employees of all categories.
Faced with a rock and hard place, Lambert said college officials are attempting to take a new look at the overall structure and how it addresses the basics of legal and contractual requirements, the accreditation process and Board of Trustees core themes. “At some level, we’re looking at reorganizing the college to be able to move forward,” Lambert said.
To help that process, a work group formed from members of the Budget and Strategic Planning committees has submitted recommendations to the President’s Senior Executive Team. That document is currently being reviewed by PSET members. Also, some PSET members are just starting meetings to envision how the college could meet both of the state’s target numbers: students and budget.
Another avenue may be collaborative efforts with other colleges, Lambert said.
Lambert said he has been in discussions with officials at Lake Washington Technical College looking for areas of collaboration and cooperation that may cut costs or bring added revenue. “I recently had lunch with two of our trustees, their president and two of their trustees,” Lambert said. “Now Everett Community College heard about it and they want to join the discussion. This is not a merger, just working together in a way that helps everyone.”
Lambert also touched on the need for technology upgrades to carry the college forward. Those upgrades will be expensive, perhaps $1 million to start. Funding those upgrades would mean additional cuts someplace else to pay for them.