Operations at Clark are adjusting as the college implements the year’s new budget, including a one percent cut to every unit.
Clark’s 2017-2018 budget was approved on Sept. 19 according to Vice President of Administrative Services Bob Williamson. While administrators formulated plans for potential one or two percent cuts during the spring, they had to wait for decisions from state legislators and the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges before setting the budget.
After months of debate and extra sessions, a state budget was finalized on June 30, bearing some good news and some bad, Williamson said. While it increased tuition by 2.2 percent and Running Start reimbursements by 1.7 percent, it also adjusted wages and benefits for faculty and staff without fully covering the cost.
Williamson also said that Clark’s share of the SBCTC funds decreased by $70,000 as a result of low enrollment.
“And because it looks at three past years we’re still getting [the benefit of] years where we met our budgeted enrollment numbers,” he said. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
The school is 478 under the fall quarter goal of 7,088 state funded FTEs as of Oct. 12 according to Vice President of Planning and Effectiveness Shanda Diehl.
However, Williamson said that while normal enrollment is down, Running Start enrollment is up, and might cover most or all of the gap as it did last year.
“Every time we think Running Start has hit its cap it continues to grow,” he said. “So the question going forward is will the rise in Running Start make up for the drop in funding from the lack of state FTEs. That has been the pattern for the last few years, but it’s not what the college wants to rely on year after year.”
Even if the drop in FTE funding is covered, Clark decided to reduce by one percent in order to cover the costs of additional programs.
“It made it possible to fund other projects across the campus,” Williamson said. “Like guided pathways and a new Chief Information Officer position to oversee IT. We also [elevated] the head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion position to an assistant vice president level, and permanently fund staffing upgrades in advising.”
It’s not all positives, though. Dean of Social Sciences and Fine Arts Miles Jackson said that the library has reduced its hours because it couldn’t employ enough students through work-studies and institutional hires. Additionally, in efforts to avoid cuts that would affect students’ classroom experiences some adjunct teachers were given fewer hours so the college could save on benefits.
“It’s something that I’m ambivalent about because it didn’t have a direct impact on students in terms of limiting offerings or classes,” Jackson said. “It just means there were some good faculty who couldn’t teach as much as they would like to.”
Dean of Student Affairs Bill Belden said his unit has made some staffing cuts too.
“We implemented a reduction of about $75,000,” Belden said. “So some positions that were vacant we just didn’t fill, and as others became vacant we’ve reassessed the value there to make sure we’re running in the most efficient way while being in line with the strategic plan and what the college needs to accomplish.”
According to Belden, some savings from the one percent cut have gone to improving student services.
“We reallocated those dollars to beef up the front line of the advising staff,” Belden said. “We’ve been trying to focus on student access to advising resources. But every decision we make has a domino effect, relocating resources to the front end is helpful for students but it leaves a lot of work for other people.”
While the operating budget is set, some things are funded by the capital budget, which the legislature failed to pass before adjourning this summer and might not address until January, leaving Clark projects in a lurch.
“The Boschma Farms campus is on hold,” Williamson said. “We expected to be in the pre-design phase already but don’t have funding to move it forward.”
Some of the capital budget also goes to smaller upgrades and repairs and to the the day to day operations of the facilities department, according to Williamson.
“Without those dollars, sooner or later we’re gonna be faced with some tough decisions about whether we can operate at the same level we are now,” he said.