Saddleback College avoids budget crisis

Shawn Heavlin-Martinez

Saddleback College will be the subject of many envious glances in the coming months as it now possesses something that has become a rarity as of late: a balanced budget.

As a result of careful long-term planning, the college will most likely not be impaired by California’s budget crisis.

“As part of the planning process, the college did not fully commit all available ongoing resources to ongoing expenditures,” according to the 2008-2009 South Orange County Community College District budget. “The college projected that the state budget would run into difficulty and therefore deliberately planned a sizeable ending balance to offset state budget reductions.”

In addition to these precautions, Saddleback College has established a $2.5 million financial reserve to allow for “economic uncertainties.”

Unlike Saddleback, much of California is in the throes of a massive financial crisis, compounded by Sacramento’s failure to approve a budget for this year. Gov. Schwarzenegger has already cut $31.3 million from the California State University budget, with a further $66.3 million in cuts proposed.

Barring any massive unforeseen expenditures, Saddleback will remain largely unaffected by Sacramento’s troubles. One reason for this is that Saddleback does not receive funds solely from state funding. Student enrollment fees, local property taxes, and even revenue from the ground lease for the Promenade Apartments all help to provide a stable source of income.

Saddleback has also managed to procure basic aid funds from the district, which provide the funds for, among other things, building repairs, construction fees, and campus upkeep.

The budget has seemingly been saved by the financially conservative practices evident in 2008-2009 financial arrangements.

According to Carol Hilton, Director of Financial Services at Saddleback College, “The College anticipated a state budget of some significance and generated a healthy ending balance to offset state budget shortfalls to the extent possible.” Hilton added that there have been no mid-year cuts in the spring semester, and that “we are monitoring the state budget situation and the college budget closely.”

Currently, there is no spending freeze at Saddleback College or SOCCCD, and the school has not forecast any cuts for the 2009-2010 school year.

Saddleback is certainly fortunate, with a large part of California’s education system having to make major cuts in their operations. According to both state officials and media reports, California is projected to run out of cash in February. In his State of the State address on January 15, Gov. Schwarzenegger said, “California, the eighth largest economy in the world, faces insolvency within weeks.”

One of the most recent and noticeable cuts made in California was the CSU system’s decision to reduce freshmen enrollment by 10,000 students. The University of California system has also decided to cut freshmen enrollment by about 2,300. UC Irvine alone is accepting 550 less students next year. However, the UC will be increasing the number of transfer slots by 500 for the 2009-2010 school year.