California community college leaders warned of an unexpected budget shortfall that could lead to more cuts in courses, staff and services. Local officials are now moving quickly to decide how to cut $1 million out of IVC’s budget before June 30 to keep the district stable.
Staff will be meeting next week to come up with an action plan before presenting the options to the board, he said.
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“Unfortunately we have no choice,” he said. “We have to find that $1 million.”
There are two major reasons for the budget shortfall, he said.
The state raised student fees last year and overestimated how much would be made, Lau said. There have also been less property taxes coming in this year.
Those at Wednesday’s IVC Board of Trustees meeting asked the board to make the tough choices for the district.
Gaylla Finnell, president of the IVC Full Time Faculty Association, said that now, more than ever, the college board needs to make the difficult decisions to balance the budget.
The problems aren’t going to end this year, she added. There may be even more cuts next year if the governor’s tax initiative isn’t approved. She asked the board to take action to support the initiative or bigger cuts may be down the road.
“This could cause several community colleges to close their doors,” she said. “We don’t want IVC to be one of them.”
She also asked that college leaders come up with a strategic plan for the college, as well as really analyze whether there’s a financial justification for future actions, like summer school or any future hirings.
They’re tough decisions that need to be made, she said.
The total $149 million shortfall comes on top of a $400 million reduction in state funding for the current fiscal year and a $102 million mid-year cut triggered when state revenues fell below projections.
IVC officials had counted on the trigger cuts at the beginning of the year, setting up a conservative budget.
About $107 million of the latest state shortfall comes from a dramatic increase in cash-strapped students receiving fee waivers because of the weak economy, officials said. The percentage of fees covered by waivers has risen to 62 percent, up from 57 percent in last fiscal year.
“It’s just one more blow to the investments we need in higher education to have a sound economic recovery,” Dan Troy, vice chancellor of finance, told The Associated Press.
The budget deficit could force community colleges to cut course sections, most likely in the summer, reduce teaching staff and increase borrowing, Troy said. That means more students won’t be able to get the classes they need to complete degree and certificate programs.
School administrators are working to convince the governor and Legislature to step in to cover the budget shortfall.
State finance officials said it was premature to discuss additional funding for the community colleges, noting that tax revenue projections are often wrong.
“We want to make sure that we have more data in hand before we make any policy decisions,” said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance.
During the past three years, the state has cut funding for the community college system by $809 million, or 12 percent, reducing the number of students served from 2.9 million to 2.6 million despite strong demand, officials said.
Staff Writer Elizabeth Varin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 760-337-3441.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.