Problems facing Board of Trustees

Matt Garvey

The South Orange County Community College District (SOCCCD) Board of Trustees is an elected body responsible for providing high quality education and maintaining fiscal stability for Saddleback College, Irvine Valley College, and the Advanced Technology and Education Park (ATEP).


SOCCCD oversees 40,000 students, 3,000 employees and has a 486 million dollar budget for 2010-2011.  


The Board of Trustees takes great pride in its conservative fiscal policy. 

“The seven member board has prudently managed the finances of the college district,” said board member John Williams.  


Key to this management has been the policy of saving and setting up reserves. 

“We’ve established considerable reserves in all the right areas such as capital projects, ongoing maintenance and retiree benefits,” Williams said.


Acting Chancellor Dixie Bullock, former President of Saddleback College, said “We have a budget that will protect in any type of emergency situation.”  


The coming years will present new challenges for the Board of Trustees.  


Demand for community college courses is perhaps higher than ever.  This is a product of a changing job market and skyrocketing costs at four year universities. This puts stress on community colleges to provide enough classes for new students.


A unique feature of SOCCCD is being a “basic aid” district. This allows it to receive property tax revenue. This source of revenue has decreased sharply over the last two years following the struggles of the housing market.  In 2008-2009 the basic aid receipts totaled $51 million then dropped in 2009-2010 to $39 million.


At Saddleback College the concern is with facilities.  Renovations and repairs are needed but in 2010-2011 budget the college was unable to fully fund the plans.  As part of a 20 Year Capital and Scheduled Maintenance Plan, $7.2 million was scheduled for repairs and renovations this year.  But SOCCCD was unable to fund the plan.


According to Director of College Fiscal Services Carl Hilton, Saddleback College had to use funds from the college allocation to partially fund the $7.2 million.  “We were not able to fund the full $7 million.  That’s too much money to allocate.  But we are doing what we can.  The repairs are a top priority,” said Hilton.


The Board of Trustees has a policy to maintain a general fund reserve or what might be better understood as a rainy day fund.  Each year 7.5% of the budget, this year around $37 million, is put into this fund.  “The reserve is used only for economic uncertainty.  It has not been used for years,” said Bullock. 


“It’s the practice of the Board of Trustees to support repairs with basic aid funding,” says Bullock.  But when it comes to the new science building the SOCCCD would like funding to come from the state “but who knows when they’ll (California) have any money,” said Bullock with a chuckle.


Bullock did not give any indication that the board would consider dipping into this general reserve fund anytime soon.  An aide said that the reserve would only be used in the worst-case scenarios.


The biggest piece of the budget by far goes to pay for salaries and benefits – coming in at 81% of the operating budget for Saddleback College.  “We have been able to provide very good benefits.  It’s the best medical coverage of any fund.  And it’s been fully funded,” says Bullock.