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* Aug. 31 may bring budget cuts

Leebrownbag072610.jpgNew cuts for the current budget year could be announced as soon as Aug. 31, according to Shoreline Community College President Lee Lambert.

 

“You can’t wait until fall,” Lambert said at a July 26, 2010 noontime brown-bag meeting in the Quiet Dining Room of the Pagoda Union Building. The session was also Web-cast live using Elluminate, although it was not recorded.

 

The need and sense of urgency for cuts beyond those already made for the current budget came in a July 15, e-mail message from the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges. The message said that as state economic indicators continue to fall, expect an additional 4 percent reduction request from Gov. Chris Gregoire and advised colleges to plan for and make cuts as soon as possible.

 

At the standing-room only meeting, Lambert outlined the factors that would come into play in making reductions that are estimated to be between $800,000 and $1 million for Shoreline.

 

“About 85 percent of our budget is in benefits and salaries. With all the cuts we’ve made in recent years, a reduction of that magnitude has to involve people,” he said. However, contract language for faculty requires a 60-day notice for reductions in force and the classified contract has similar language. “Even if we start now, it will be two to three months before reductions would take effect,” he said. Any delay just means more cuts would be required to reach the same goal.

 

Administrative-exempt contracts generally allow quicker separation, but also include two-month payouts, he said. Lambert said he expects to announce some personnel reductions for administrative-exempt employees by Aug. 31, followed by classified employees and then faculty.

 

Lambert said strategies for budget cuts would likely come in these general areas, including:

  • Lapsed salaries from employees who leave and the positions aren’t filled
  • Tighter spending controls
  • Moving employees salaries off state funding support
  • Furloughs

“This isn’t new stuff, it’s what we have been doing,” Lambert said, adding he’s not a fan of furloughs.

 

“You’d have to consider a furlough as a permanent salary reduction,” he said. Lambert added that a college-initiated furlough strategy wouldn’t preclude the state from ordering more.

 

Among the questions raised at the meeting were:

 

Q- What about reducing the number of students served (FTEs)?

A- At this point, we’re not talking about a reduction in FTEs, although that may become a de facto reduction with not enough funding to serve the state-allocated number.

 

Q – How does the Five-Star Consortium and the state efficiencies bill figure into all this?

A – Discussions on both could occur this week in Tacoma where the presidents will be meeting Wednesday-Friday. Lambert said he’s concerned effects on expenses and revenues under both efforts won’t come fast enough to impact the current problem.

 

Q- The last time we had cuts, there was a plan. Couldn’t we just go back to that and make the next round?

A – Yes. While the hiring freeze changed the planning approach this last year, Lambert said the information and strategies discussed would provide a starting point for this round.

 

Q - Will departments and divisions get reduction target numbers from the administration?

A - “That may not work this time, we may have to take whole things offline,” he said, adding that specific cut targets may work in some areas.

 

Q – How does this immediate cut fit in with the work the Strategic Planning and Budget Committee is doing this summer and planning for the next biennium?

A - Lambert said the biennium planning work would continue, but now will have to consider any reductions that come from the current-year cuts now being contemplated.

 

Q - How about just calling for retirements?

A - Lambert said that could happen after discussions with union leaders.

 

Q – So, what’s the solution?

A – Lambert said that after attending Gov. Gregoire’s open meeting on the budget, he feels that it will take system-level changes to adequately address the issues facing the state now, for the next biennium and then the following two-year cycle. “The Governor said she’s expecting a $3 billion problem for the next two years and $9 billion after that,” Lambert said. “We’re probably not going to get help with what we’re facing.”

 

Q – Will Shoreline close?

A - Lambert said Shoreline has many valuable components. “I believe the state will be served best with 34 locations, but they make look different than they do now,” he said. 

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