Budget crisis means fewer classes, services

[Rudy Reynoso] From left to right: ASCC president Andres Navarro, senator Mariana Vega, vice president Nayiri Baghdassarian and legislative liaison Tyler Hernadez study the Citrus College proposed 2012-13 budget during the Budget Forum hosted by college vice president of finance and administrative services, Carol Horton.

The effects of state budget cuts are becoming more and more visible on campus, especially to those who spent their first day of school waitlisted or scrambling to add classes. It’s no secret that Citrus College has been making cuts—cutting programs, cutting classes, cutting spending.

Students ready to storm the Board of Executives room and demand their classes back should spend a few minutes with the college’s vice president of finance, Carol Horton.

She took care to remind those attending the 2012 Budget Presentation that Citrus College’s first priority funding-wise is to ensure student access to classes.

But funding is not what it used to be.

California’s Proposition 98 states that even during years of economic downturn, the state must match education funding from previous years, with adjustments for growth in enrollment.

However, close to 90 percent of those funds are spent on K-12 schools, stunting enrollment growth for community colleges.

The California Community College system budget has decreased by 12 percent in the past three years, according to California Community College Chancellor’s office.

Some loss in funding falls under what the state calls deferral payments—money the state owes to schools that will not be paid until later. The $13.6 million owed to Citrus is only a small portion of the $961 million owed to community colleges statewide.

In addition, the state owes millions in mandate claims. The California State Controller’s office creates mandates, such as the Collective Bargaining and Integrated Wastes mandate (rules for recycling procedure).

But carrying out these mandates costs money. School districts and public entities have been teaming up to fight for funding, but more often than not, the state doesn’t pay.

Since 2008, Citrus has been adjusting its budget to offset the reduced funding.

Horton emphasized that the reductions in spending have been a team effort, as faculty in every department have been doing what they can to save money, and the numbers reflect their efforts.

This has resulted in a 14.5 percent ending balance for fiscal year 2011-12, much more than the 9.4 percent that was projected a month earlier. The most apparent effects of these cuts are canceled classes.

Dean of enrollment management Samuel Lee explained how administrators choose which classes they can afford to lose, or rather, can’t afford to keep.

“We spend a lot of time as an instructional team, the dean’s team, trying to figure out the best schedule we can throw in,” Lee said. “We want students to be able to complete their programs as quickly as possible.” The schedule is designed to cover the wide range of classes that students need, he added.

With fewer classes available, more students than ever have been turned away during that first anxiety-filled week of school. And the less students Citrus has, the less funding it receives. Citrus College receives 78 percent of its revenue from state funding based on the number of full-time equivalent students it serves. FTES can be defined as students taking 525 hours of instruction—the equivalent of 15 units per two semesters.

Also worth mentioning is that currently Citrus is running at 106 percent capacity, which means that it isn’t being paid for six percent of the students attending.

During the 2007-08 school year, Lee estimates Citrus was serving close to 13,000 FTES. Since then, the FTES population has dipped to just above 10,000. General fund revenue, state money apportioned for specific uses, for Citrus has decreased by approximately $7 million since 2008. As long as the budget cuts continue, Citrus will have to cut classes.

The finance department has prepared budget scenarios for the worst circumstances. And while she promises to “hold off for as long as she can,” Horton believes that Citrus College may have to take out a loan—and the interest rates that go with it—as early as December.