Shoreline Community College is again preparing to deal with another round of state-mandated budget reductions.
The latest in a mind-numbing series of cuts over the past three years, the potential size of this budget whack should clear any cobwebs: 23 percent.
“The Governor has said she needs to get $2 billion out of the $8.7 billion that is available to cut,” Shoreline President Lee Lambert said. “She has also said that across-the-board cuts are no longer an option. So, 23 percent is the average; it could be more, could be less.”
For Shoreline, a 23 percent reduction in the state funding allocation translates to about $4 million, according to Vice President for Administrative Services Daryl Campbell. “That’s $4 million for the 2011-12 biennium,” Campbell said adding that two of those 24 months have already passed and the clock is ticking. “Waiting to act just means less time to make the same cut.”
The size of the budget challenge doubled in outlined less than two months. On Aug. 8, Gov. Gregoire asked all state agencies to consider what cuts of 5 and 10 percent would do to services. Among the impacts forwarded by the state’s community and technical colleges are three jarring realities:
1) Fewer students earning fewer degrees and certificates;
2) Deep cuts in basic-skills (pre-college) programs;
3) Elimination of viable but high-cost workforce programs.
For Shoreline, dealing with the cuts will require a box of budget tools, but Lambert said the basic strategy will be the same as he outlined at Sept. 15 all-campus meeting.
“We will use those tools to build a bridge from this time of shrinking state resources to a time when our initiatives to grow non-state funds can take hold,” Lambert said.
Shoreline’s main tool comes in the form of reserves that could total as much as $3 million. “As a rule, I don’t like to use one-time money in such a fashion, but in this case, we’re buying time for our investments in internationalization, the virtual college, developing industry partnerships and seeking more grants and contracts, to grow.”
The college could also immediately freeze or limit spending in certain categories.
Salaries for two out of three employee categories are governed by union contracts. Classified employees, who are covered by a statewide contract, are already slated for a 3 percent reduction starting July 1, 2012. College officials have discussed a similar reduction for administrative employees and will explore conversations with faculty for a comparable option.
After that could come program reductions or eliminations and layoffs.
“Our reserves could probably handle a cut of up to 10 percent, but 23? That can’t help but mean fewer classes serving fewer students,” Lambert said. “We’ll still use the reserves, probably more than we’d like to, but at the levels they’re talking about now, I don’t see how we avoid cuts.”
This past spring, the college reviewed the lineup of professional-technical programs. “We would have to revisit that list,” Lambert said and added that wouldn’t mean other classes, programs and departments would be spared scrutiny.
“At this point, we know the number is likely to be big and we know the longer we wait the more painful the solution becomes,” Lambert said. “At this point, we are planning to come back to the Board of Trustees at their Oct. 26 meeting with proposals on how to move forward.”