Thursday, July 02, 2015
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Budget signed, more problems on horizon

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on July 28 signed a revised 2009-10 state budget that reduces community college funding by more than $680 million and could cut enrollment by 250,000 students. Preliminary figures show AVC’s state funding would be cut approximately $4.56 million.

Like other recent spending plans approved by California lawmakers, the new budget relies on certain assumptions for revenue that are deemed overly optimistic by observers, leading to the prospect of more budget problems in the next few months.

One assumption being drawn into question is the amount of one-time federal money that will be available to offset significant cuts to numerous categorical programs at AVC and other California community colleges.

State legislators predicted that federal State Stabilization Funds would offset approximately half of the cuts to categorical programs such as Extended Opportunities Programs and Services (EOPS) and Matriculation. However, California Community College System Chancellor Jack Scott cautioned it would be several weeks before calculations are completed to determine the actual share of funds for community colleges.

Scott Lay, president of the Community College League of California, also issued caution about the use of federal funds to offset the cuts to categorical programs.

“While we're all working hard in Sacramento to ensure we get every dollar in federal funds deserved by community colleges, it is important to note that the federal funds are one-time, are speculative, and are unlikely to be restored in 2010-11,” Lay wrote.

Scott, a former state senator, offered a solemn assessment of the budget in a memo to community college chief executive officers on Tuesday.

“While I would like nothing more than to tell you that we anticipate a strong recovery of the state budget in the near future, this is not the case,” Scott wrote.

“California's fiscal crisis is rooted first and foremost in the worldwide economic collapse. While the world and U.S. economies have shown some signs of turnaround in recent months, all indications are that the recovery will be slow and take an extended period of time.

“Further, the California economy, the epicenter of the foreclosure crisis, appears to be on an even slower course to recovery than the rest of the nation. Until the economy regains its strength, the California state budget will continue its struggles.”

Those struggles are expected to include low state revenues and property taxes falling under projections, leading to the possibility of more mid-year cuts in 2009-10, according to Scott.

“State leaders have not been willing to make the deep cuts or raise the revenues necessary to put the budget on stable ground,” Scott wrote. “As a result, borrowing and gimmicks continue to hold the budget together.”

Scott cited Legislative Analyst Office forecasts of multi-billion dollar budget shortfalls through 2013-14.

Major features of the community college budget approved Tuesday include:

  • Student fee increases from $20 to $26 a unit effective fall semester.
  • Elimination of all growth money – a significant setback for AVC, which has been experiencing record enrollment growth.
  • No cost of living adjustment.
  • $333 million in cuts to categorical programs, with one-time federal money projected to restore $140 million.

Taking into account the hoped-for federal money, here’s how categorical programs would be affected:

  • No cuts: Student Financial Aid Administration, Foster Care Education.
  • 16 percent cut: CalWORKs services, Basic Skills, Disabled Students Programs and Services, EOPS and Cooperative Agencies Resources for Education (CARE), Fund for Student Success, Nursing.
  • 17 percent cut: SB 70 Career Technical Education (total funding cut from $58 million to $48 million)
  • 20 percent cut: Telecommunication/Technology
  • 32 percent cut: Academic Senate, Apprenticeship, Child Care Tax Bailout, Economic Development, Equal Employment Opportunity, Transfer Education and Articulation, Matriculation, Part-time Faculty Compensation, Part-time Faculty Health Insurance, Part-time Faculty Office Hours.
  • Elimination: Physical Plant/Instructional Equipment.

Another element of the budget includes language authorizing community college districts to transfer funds out of certain categorical programs and into any other categorical program included in the state budget. A public board meeting is required before making such a transfer.