Budget cuts have small impact on SOCCCD schools

UC Santa Barbara students protest the student fee hike and the effects of budget cuts on their campus. Fees increased 32 percent in 2009. ( CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Daniel Falk

In order to balance a state budget facing a $25.4 billion deficit, Gov. Jerry Brown called for “sacrifice from every sector of the state” earlier this month, including $400 million in cuts to California’s community colleges.

Although many higher education school districts are being impacted by budget cuts, Saddleback and Irvine Valley Colleges will, most likely, not be troubled by the cuts, according to Acting Vice Chancellor of Human Resources David Bugay.

“Assuming the governor’s tax proposal passes, Saddleback and IVC will probably not be effected,” Bugay said. “There might be possible preparations for budget impact, but currently, there will be no real change.”

South Orange County Community College District receives its funding from a basic aid district meaning that all the money it receives is generated by local property taxes.

According to Beth Mueller, SOCCCD’s director of fiscal services, the district calculates the amount of funding it would have received from the state through Senate Bill 361, which determines the formula for how colleges are paid. The district then subtracts that from the total amount of property tax revenue and then puts what is left into capital and emergency funds.

“It’s a little complicated,” Mueller said. “SOCCCD operates as if it is on state funding for its daily operations. It takes the amount of funding that it would have received from the state through SB 361, and allocates it to the colleges.

Mueller said the rest of the money received from property taxes is put aside for one time uses on capital expenditures, like buildings, renovations and other projects.”

While the basic aid district relies solely on property tax revenue, which can fluctuate depending on market trends and tax rates, Mueller said this protects the district so that if it should lose its basic aid status, the day-to-day operations would be still be funded. However, the funding would come from state apportionment.

Gov. Brown’s proposed $12.4 billion in budget cuts are dependant on a tax increase proposal which the state thinks will be rejected by 80 percent of voters.

“The $400 million of cuts to community colleges is dependant on the tax increase,” said Carol Hilton, director of fiscal services at Saddleback. “If that tax proposal should fail, we could see as much as $900 million in cuts to the budget.”

There are 72 college districts in the state, and only three of them are basic aid districts.

“The scary thing is – what happens when the proposed tax increase fails?” Bugay said. “The fear is that, if it fails, Gov. Brown will go after the basic aid districts.”

According to Bugay, if the state decides to take away the basic aid district status, “SOCCCD will be in a world of hurt.”

“If [that] happens,” Bugay said, “it will change how we do business in a number of ways. The way we supply classrooms, staff and support services will all have to be reconsidered. Renovations and capital building projects might have to be postponed or shut down.”

SOCCCD’s final fiscal budget is expected to be finalized near the end of July, according to Hilton.

“There are many changes that will take place once the state legislators get involved,” Hilton said. “The colleges in the district will be following the state budget with a close eye, and will be mitigating the impact on the budget to the extent possible.”

Further photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/burlap/4441518208/  (per CC license)


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