Shoreline Community College officials went into a Thursday afternoon meeting to discuss how to plan for current-year budget cuts of 4 and 6 percent.
They came out of the meeting to find that Gov. Chris Gregoire has pegged the number at 6.3 percent, the system could lose "9,000 slots" and State Board of Community and Technical Colleges Executive Director Charlie Earl saying to forget about 4 percent.
“It isn’t entirely unexpected news, but we weren’t sure when we’d know it,” said Daryl Campbell, Vice President for Administrative Services. “Now we know. If there is any good news, it is that we had just been discussing the likelihood of the cut staying at the higher end of the spectrum.”
Campbell and the other members of the Senior Executive Team met to work on the college response to a state board survey about the projected impacts of two separate budget reductions scenarios: 1) a 6 percent cut for this year, with language that legislative action in January could knock that down to about 4 percent, and; 2) a 10 percent reduction for the coming two-year budget period that starts July 1, 2011. The survey is due back to the state board by Sunday, Sept. 26.
While Gregoire had already predicted the current-year cuts would be 4-7 percent, the actual number, 6.3 percent, came Thursday on the heels of a state revenue projection that sees very little good in the near future.
“Job growth remains anemic; housing is looking for a new bottom; and, despite some easing in credit conditions, small businesses continue to face a challenging credit environment,” says the Economic & Revenue Forecast Council report. “There is still considerable drag in the economy, little indication of any impending acceleration, and increased uncertainty.”
Less certain was whether that number would hold or be reduced to something closer to 4 percent. At play is a “maintenance of effort” (MOE) clause that all states, including Washington, agreed to in return for accepting federal stimulus money. However, also on Thursday afternoon came an e-mail memo from Earl to all colleges strongly advising to not plan on any MOE budget protection.
“We now question whether they will be able to balance the state budget without violating these limits,” Earl wrote. “As a result, I STRONGLY urge you to assume that the Governor’s across-the-board reductions will hold up as the level of reduction for FY 2011.”
A week ago, state board staff had supplied all colleges with dollar targets for the 6 percent cut scenario. Shoreline’s target was $1.298 million. Just minutes after Earl’s memo was sent, a notice went out from the state Office of Financial Management translating 6.3 percent into a new target: $1.363 million for Shoreline.
Campbell said the executive team will meet twice again next week to complete the state board survey and arrive at a plan to meet the new cut level and make a recommendation to President Lee Lambert.
Lambert, on a trade mission to China and Vietnam with Gregoire,is staying close to the situation and interacting with staff by e-mail. Lambert was closely involved with the vice presidents and budget discussions before leaving for Asia.
Late Thursday a news release posted on her Web site, said: "Gregoire warned that the cuts could mean the loss of up to 9,000 slots at local community and technical colleges at a time when demand is at its highest, a reduction of funding for 75 percent of our local school districts that receive extra financial support through levy equalization, and the closure of another state prison. These cuts will affect communities and services across the state."