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* Special session key to college budget

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A student (in purple) listens to the response to her question during the all-campus meeting, Friday, Dec. 10, 2010. 

 

Shoreline Community College employees will have extra incentive to watch the outcome of Washington’s special legislative session scheduled to start at 9 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010.

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Staff and faculty heard at an all-campus meeting on Friday that decisions made in Olympia could have a direct bearing on 27 positions that have been identified for possible layoff. At issue is just how much will be cut in a mid-year budget correction forced by a continued weak economy.

 

“Not due to the fault of any of us here, the challenges just keep coming and coming and it doesn’t let up,” Shoreline President Lee Lambert told a room of more than 100 employees and students with another 50 watching via the Web.  “We’ve had to make some very tough choices in a very attenuated timeline.”

 

Vice President for Administrative Services Daryl Campbell outlined the scale of the problem, the variables and the impact.

 

“We started in July with a 7 percent reduction form the previous year,” Campbell said. “Then, in September, we are asked for a plan to cut 6.3 percent more. Then comes November and we’re asked for another 4.6 percent.”

 

The caveat to all of that, Campbell said, is something called “maintenance of effort,” a clause in the state’s agreement to accept federal stimulus money that keeps higher-education expenditures at a certain level. Until just recently, adherence to the clause didn't look likely and the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges advised against counting on it.

 

However, as a special session became more likely, both Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate put forth plans that did honor maintenance of effort.

 

Campbell said that if lawmakers pass a supplemental budget with maintenance of effort, moving ahead with planned layoffs could be delayed until June 30, 2011. He warned, however, that serious cuts are still anticipated at that time.

“This does nothing more than buy us time from what I’m certain will be back-loaded cuts of 18 percent or higher,” Campbell said.

 

Campbell then showed a slide that indicated the numbers of potential layoffs by employment category: Seven administrative-exempt, five classified and 15 full-time faculty.

 

Lambert said that depending on the news out of Olympia, the college could pull back on some or all of the positions for the time being. “But,” he said, “This stuff will happen. It’s just a question of when.”

 

Lambert said the college is working to mitigate the potential losses and that any extra time is helpful. “We’re constantly pursuing additional revenue streams,” he said. “This buys us time to see if any of those materialize.”

 

Money from sources such as grants and contracts can sometimes be used to offset losses in state funding.

 

“The state is forcing us in this direction,” Lambert said. “You can’t continue to chip away at our institutions and expect them to serve to the same level. Something’s going to have to give.”

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