Shoreline Community College officials are on the cusp of discussions about how and where to make another round of cuts forced by state budget woes.
In his report at the Jan. 5, 2010 College Council meeting on college budget issues, Vice President for Administrative Services Daryl Campbell presented work done in November and December by a subgroup of the Budget and Strategic Planning committees. The subgroup developed a document, “Criteria for Restructuring and Guidelines for a Transparent Process."
“They did a really nice job,” Campbell said. “We’ve been reviewing the document, working to build objectives. We have not gone forward yet with any real substantive look at restructuring, but that will start soon, perhaps by the end of the week.”
Campbell said the document is helping to guide college officials as they look at how to make cuts at the levels anticipated for the 2010-11 budget. Campbell also outlined what officials believe those levels will be.
“The assumption had been that the state couldn’t cut more than $80 million from higher education without risking the federal stimulus money,” Campbell said. In taking the federal help, the state is obligated to spend at least to 2006 levels. All of that translated to about a $1.35 million target for Shoreline, he said.
“The budget proposed by Gov. Gregoire in December does that, sort of,” Campbell said. Gregoire proposes shifting some money between capital and operations and actually adding some spending for Worker Retraining programs. “The result is that the statewide number is now $90 million, making our share about $1.5 million,” he said, adding that the extra spending means the federal penalty isn’t triggered, even though the total reduction is more than $80 million.
President Lee Lambert told the Council that while Shoreline’s current target may be $1.5 million, it might not be enough.
“What weighs on me heavily is that perhaps the state hasn’t seen the end yet,” Lambert said. “We can hope that each year the reduction amount gets smaller, but it may be another two to three years before we get to the bottom.
“That may mean that we need to start planning now for a target of $2 million or $2.5 million.”
Lambert said that at even $1.5 million, that could mean as many as 30 positions might be cut. “We’re sitting on about 15 vacancies right now, that’s half of it, although I’m not saying it will fall out like that.”
Council member and Faculty Senate Chair Guy Hamilton asked if those 15 vacancies would drive the restructuring plan. Lambert answered that while some of the vacancies could remain open, others could become “landing spots” for other employees who might be asked to move from current positions. “We won’t know that until we see the restructuring plan,” Lambert said.
Lambert added that another possible casualty of the cuts could be pieces of the current governance structure. “We just put this wonderful committee system in place, but … can we run the college the same way with 30 fewer people?” he asked. “(College Council) is probably going to grapple with that in the spring.”
Campbell said that besides the likely $1.5 million target and perhaps the need to plan now for more in coming years, there are other strains on the budget.
“There is the technology plan, recently finished by the Technology Planning Committee,” Campbell said. “If we’re going to move forward as a college, we need to fund that plan over three years. That could mean another $1 million to $1.5 million in spending this coming year. We’d have to find that money somewhere.”
Campbell also noted that Gov. Gregoire’s budget calls for a significant reduction in state financial assistance to students. “Ted Hasse in Financial Aid has done some work that indicates the state cut could mean $1.7 million less for Shoreline students,” Campbell said. “A decision to be made is, ‘Will this college replace any of that financial assistance?’ It may be imperative to keep student FTEs the (state target) level.
“All of those things have to be figured in. And, oh, by the way, still do our strategic plan.”
Campbell and Lambert said there are wildcards in the budget deck.
Gov. Gregoire and some legislators have spoken about the need for new taxes. Campbell said that while no direct relief to higher education is likely to come from a tax hike, Gregoire has said she would reinstate her proposed cuts to financial assistance.
Lambert noted that he is on a workgroup of CTC presidents that is making a recommendation on how colleges count international students. If adopted, colleges would have some added budget flexibility.
Lambert also said there is likely to be legislation from both the House and Senate that moves colleges toward collaboration on administrative services. In a December meeting, Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-36th Dist., said that he would introduce such a bill. Carlyle, a former member of the SBCTC, has outlined his views on his legislative blog.