While Shoreline Community College was getting ready to
welcome students for fall quarter, the state budget headlines included a
financial emergency declaration, the likelihood for more cuts, another special
legislative session and little reason for immediate economic optimism.
Still, Shoreline President Lee Lambert said that previous planning
and budgetary prudence may give the college some help in weathering the storm.
On Sept. 14, 2011, the State Board for Community and
Technical Colleges voted unanimously to declare a financial emergency for the
community and technical college system.
The emergency declaration provides colleges with the
authority to expedite layoffs for tenured and tenure-track faculty. The Legislature
adopted the process in the 1980s to address the job security provided for
faculty in the state’s tenure laws.
President Lee Lambert said the State Board’s action doesn’t
mean the declaration will be used at Shoreline. To invoke the declaration, each
college’s Board of Trustees makes separate decisions based on the situation at
each school. Lambert said Thursday, Sept. 15, that it is too soon to know if he
would make that recommendation to Shoreline’s Board of Trustees.
“These are extraordinarily challenging times, requiring us
to make many difficult decisions, including this one,” SBCTC Chair Sharon
Fairchild said in a press release. She acknowledged the collaborative
decision-making process colleges engage in when addressing the impact of budget
cuts on faculty, staff and students and encouraged continuation of that
Also Thursday, Gov. Chris Gregoire told the Seattle Times
that she will likely call a special legislative session sometime after the next
economic forecast, scheduled for November. Gregoire said she wanted to wait in
case things get worse, according to the report.
Gregoire’s comments came just hours after the September
economic forecast was released. That report said the state’s revenue losses are
deepening due to the ongoing economic crisis. While the report pegs the current
shortfall at $1.4 billion, Gregoire told the Times that she could be looking
for something closer to $2 billion to make sure the state has some reserves.
In August, Gregoire asked all state agencies, including
Shoreline, to plan for cuts of 5-10 percent in the current year.
At the same time the state forecast was being unveiled,
President Lambert was addressing hundreds of college faculty and staff members at
the Fall Convocation. Lambert said that good planning and budgetary prudence
has put the college in a relatively good place to deal with the cuts.
“While I don’t like the idea of using one-time money to
cover ongoing expenses, this may be a special case,” Lambert said.
If the cuts are 5 percent, unlikely based on Thursday’s state
economic news; the college may be able to cover the loss. If they are 10
percent, Lambert said, “That could be a little tougher, but maybe still
possible.” If the cuts go above 10 percent, he said the college would likely
need to make some reductions.
Lambert said the special factors at play include the new
strategic initiatives of bringing more international students to Shoreline, the
expansion of online classes and student services and pursuit of new
“We’re already seeing some improvement in these areas and
they’re just getting started,” Lambert said. “I believe that we can get through
this and have the college not just survive, but thrive.”