Basic aid funds sustain SOCCCD

(Chart courtesy of UCLA Library)

Jason Chung

While many California community college districts are cutting class sessions, eliminating programs, and laying off employees in the wake of state budget cuts, the South Orange County Community College District is shielded from most of the damage due to its basic aid status.

A community college district gains basic aid status when its local property tax revenues exceed the amount of general-purpose funds allotted by the state under California Senate Bill No. 361.

SB 361 was introduced by Chancellor Jack Scott of the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office in 2006 and signed into law by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that same year. It provides a comprehensive reform of the previous fund-allocation formula that was deemed overly complex and outdated for the financial needs of the 72 community college districts in California, according to a bill summary provided by the CCCCO.

However, due to state budget constraints brought on by low tax revenues, low interest rates from state bonds, and rampant state spending, the current model of the bill resulted in drastic funding cuts for college districts statewide.

In the 2011-12 academic year alone, funds for community colleges were cut by a total of $400 million, which $110 million hopefully offset by the $10 fee hike implemented in July 2011, according to the Community College League of California’s Budget Advocacy Action Center.

“There are certain sorts of mandates that will come with the SB 361 model,” said Irvine Valley College President Glenn Roquemore, “and the biggest that’s hurting everyone right now is the workload reduction.”

Workload reduction means the college will be mandated by the state to limit the number of courses it is able to offer, Roquemore said.

“[If the district enters basic aid], you are no longer funded by the state. You will be funded then entirely off of those property tax proceeds,” said Roquemore. “[So] the budget cuts and mandates would not affect us.”

Fortunately, the SOCCCD is saved from the negative impacts of those cuts because it was funded by local property taxes at the time.

“Now, as a result, what we do is we take the SB361 model and we apply it to that basic aid money for the purposes of distributing the funds out to the two colleges,” said Roquemore. “So in a way, we are doing a pseudo-calculation and trying to mirror what everyone else is doing in the state and the way those moneys are allocated. The purpose of doing that is that, in case we happen to lose basic aid, for some reason, then we will be right at our funded level from the state and it wouldn’t create a big need to cut and everything will be running smoothly.”

This freedom from state mandates allow Saddleback College and IVC to continue offer existing classes and even expand programs to suit student needs.

“We are writing new programs in pre-engineering,” said Roquemore. “We are working on some new curriculum in gaming, and rapid-manufacturing. We are also expanding a bit in the business area, particularly in the business entrepreneurial studies. We recently added a paralegal program. We have been able to continue to refine our curriculum to where the jobs are and where our student needs are.”

Yet, several districts and colleges that were left with no choice but to make massive cuts includes the Ventura County Community College District, the Yosemite Community College District, Long Beach City College, Solano Community College, and Santa Monica Community College.

According to an article by the Ventura County Star published in April, the three colleges under the VCCCD, Moorpark, Oxnard and Ventura have eliminated another 60 more jobs last month, in addition to the classes and problems that were already cut and departments restructured following a $16.2 million budget reduction over the past three years. Among the jobs eliminated is a dean, a grant development writer, several child development assistants and lab technicians. Moorpark College even suspended its baseball, men’s cross country and men’s track and field programs for the 2012-13 academic year, according to another Star article published in Nov. 2011.

According to a Modesto Bee article from April, the YCCD board of trustees unanimously voted to cut $8 million in funds during a board meeting on March 9, 2011, that ultimately led to 40 support staff, 11 faculty members, four administrators and a dean at Modesto Junior College being laid off. More than a dozen programs, including architecture, culinary arts, communications and graphics, dental assisting, engineering, foreign languages and industrial technology, at the college were also eliminated. Its child care center was shut down as well.

In anticipation for an additional $5 million in state funding cut next academic year, the Long Beach City College board of trustees also voted unanimously to lay off 12 managers and 43 support staff, as well as reducing the hours of 96 others, according to an article published by The Associated Press last week.

In March, Solano Community College announced it will drop its football and aquatics programs to make up for a $4.8 million budget deficit. Considerations are already being made to close down its child care center, replace the campus police department with a private security force, and suspend the summer school sessions as well, according to a report by ABC7.

At Santa Monica Community College, Public Information Officer Bruce Smith said that the college has made modifications to faculty health coverage, increased international student enrollment, and take on energy-saving initiatives to save $3 million. However, the college is still able to maintain a 750-course summer session, the largest among Southern California community college districts.