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Superintendent/President Message

Nov. 13, 2012

Avoiding the Fiscal Tsunami

California voters—thanks to a surge of 18 to 29-year-old voters—approved Proposition 30 last week. While the passage helps California Community Colleges avoid a fiscal tsunami, it doesn’t stop a financial storm.

The state legislature still has not fixed structural issues, including funding deferrals. For months on end, the state continues to defer funding that is due to us, forcing us to borrow money from the county treasury to meet payroll.

While the state may continue kicking the can down the road, I am proud of the efforts by all our constituencies to put the Southwestern College financial house in order. We have the one-year solutions of a 5% pay reduction and drawing down on district reserves.

We have also looked at long-term structural processes that will help us move forward in good times and in bad. We have a strong grip on Part Time Overload funds this semester to ensure we are keeping costs in check. Our budget managers are closely scrutinizing purchases. And we have significantly increased our efficiency rate. Last fall it was 80%; this fall we’ve hit our target of 93%.

Where do go from here, though? Academic Senate President Randy Beach and I debriefed the effects of Prop. 30’s passage at the beginning of the Shared Consultation Council meeting last week, with input from our vice presidents and Bob Temple. We reviewed the Budget Scenario document from the Budget Committee. (You can review the scenario document on SharePoint, under the Budget Committee’s Document Library.)

First and foremost, we will not have to cut additional classes from the spring schedule. Learning lessons from student enrollment patterns in last spring’s schedule and our efficiency rate efforts, we were already building this year’s spring schedule with fewer classes. We also took into consideration the 5.6% reduction in FTES as part of our decreased funding from last year.

Additional good news is that we will have a summer school schedule this year. The scope of summer school will depend on how we do in the spring, however.

While those are great steps forward, difficult work still lies ahead. The budget scenario shows we face a $6.8 million shortfall for 2013-2014, because our one-year fixes expire. Our budget managers have done an excellent job in identifying $1 million in ongoing reductions in their areas, bringing our deficit to $5.8 million for the upcoming year.

Our constituency leaders have already begun meeting, and they are truly committed to finding a solution. We have all committed to following the principals of Interest Based Bargaining, which will allow us to bring forward many different possibilities.

A small committee of Academic Senate members has also spent this semester creating 10 criteria that will help faculty prioritize the curriculum. As Randy explained at last week’s meeting, the criteria is focused on the needs of students to complete something—whether it’s a degree or certificate. It’s not a matter of saying one program is more important than another, Randy said. It’s a matter of doing what’s best for students.

The Academic Senate’s work in this area is crucial. The Chancellor’s office has already narrowed our mission as a Community College system. With our constrained budgets, all community colleges must focus on classes that lead to: 1) transfer, 2) Career Technical Education and 3) basic skills.

We have many bright minds working on solutions. I have seen the spirit of camaraderie and collegiality when everybody comes together in the best interest of our students and college community. Please continue bringing your suggestions to your constituency leaders. I have faith and trust that we will, once again, address our own financial storm.

Golden Jaguar reunion

We’re inviting our Golden Jaguars back onto campus on Dec. 6 to ask them to participate in the Southwestern College Cares initiative. We’re hoping they will be willing to donate their time, talent and treasure to specific, short-term volunteer projects. An email invitation was sent last week, and a hard-copy invitation is being mailed this week.

If you know of any retired Southwestern College employees, please feel free to share the information with them. Thursday, Dec. 6 at 10:30 a.m. – noon in Student Union East.