Board Attacks Budget Cuts

Corinna Scott

Community colleges took a $292 million cut last year and this college may lose an additional $4.5 million this year, said Patrick McCallum, legislative advocate for Glendale Community College in Sacramento, in a special presentation on legislative updates at a board of trustees meeting Nov. 17.

“The cuts are disproportionately unfair to community colleges,” said McCallum.
A $30 per unit fee is being proposed by the state legislature starting next year. The governor proposed a $26 per unit fee last January.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see a fee over $30 in the January budget,” said McCallum.
McCallum said that the previous year would be an indicator for what would happen in January and in the coming years.

“The public doesn’t believe in high fees. In fact, the public opposes fee increases on community college students at a greater rate than they oppose tax increases,” said McCallum.”They don’t like taxes, they don’t like fees .basically they want their services and they don’t want to pay for it – 71 percent of the public thinks we are doing an excellent to good job; 68 percent of the public understands that community colleges are under-funded.”

McCallum said it’s going to take an all-out effort, encouraging board members to contact the state legislature by writing a personal story in a letter and for instructors to communicate with students on this matter.
Following McCallum was a special presentation by Harry Hull, president of the Glendale College Foundation.

Hull said the global stock market collapse has affected the college and the invested endowment assets have taken a major hit. However, the college has a very long term horizon for investments and there is an experienced financial committee, who are closely watching the college’s funds.
“We have the benefit of being able to tap into the resources of a very capable fund manager at Capital Guardian. We have investments in U.S. companies and the best companies around the world,” said Hull.
“You [the board] should know that we have a diversified portfolio and we have an investment strategy and a spending plan that we think are going to help to hold up our endowments in spite of the global crisis.”
Hull said this has been an unprecedented rocky year in the stock market and our assets are down significantly in the short term.

“Our foundation has an incredible history of service to this college,” said Hull, “When you walk around the campus you see the results of our efforts in a lot of places, from the football field and the scoreboard, to the planetarium, to the new health science building, to many other places; this foundation has long supported a lot of areas in the college.”

“But now we are excited to be looking at an area where we haven’t directly touched in the past and that’s the theater arts department. We have a committee reviewing the possibility of helping to fund a major renovation of the auditorium from the seats, to the lighting to the stage lift and other areas,” said Hull.

Hull said this will help the college attract students who are enthusiastic about the arts.
The governor has a half tax increase, half budget cut approach to the state budget.
The third special presentation was given by Steve Marsden, faculty guild chief negotiator and math professor.

“This is the worst budget disaster I’ve ever seen and I’ve been here [a long time],” said Marsden, “but there’s a difference between crisis mode and going-into-panic mode and I worry that some of you [on the board] may not just get it, so let me provide a little bit of history. At least once per decade we have a major budget crisis here. If we all come together beforehand to provide, we survive by what’s called ‘institutional pruning,’ otherwise known as reprioritization with limited resources.”
Institutional pruning is when budgets are slashed, programs and people disappear and students suffer, said Marsden.

According to Marsden, if the faculty and board don’t join forces, students will suffer even more.

Marsden went on to say that in these times leadership is important, citing the board’s reliance on lawyers to the tune of $330,000, said “we don’t need lawyers as much as we need leaders.”leadership versus process, Marsden said, “This place is not about process, it’s about people.”

“And make no mistake – this faculty is here today, not asking for a damn dime – we’re demanding that you listen to our leaders because we’re behind them 100 percent,” said Marsden.

To Victor King, board of trustees president, Marsden said, “We don’t want to run GCC, but we do expect to be heard and to play a strong role helping the college to survive this perfect storm of a budget crisis. That is our custom. That is our right.”

To Steve Ferguson, student trustee who said the 1 percent pay raise was “anti-student,” Marsden said that the 1 percent pay raise that was passed was not about money, but maintaining the last shred of dignity that allows the faculty to do their jobs.

“You know my biggest fear for this place is not that we end up battling each other for priorities, because we’ll outlast you,” said Marsden, “My biggest fear is that your actions or inactions will end up completely destroying the passion that drives GCC. And I’m worried that we’re going to turn this place into just another job location, where the staff shows up, puts in the minimal time and effort and goes home. Now that’s really anti-student.”

Marsden said that almost all the student programs are faculty conceived and implemented and are fueled by faculty energy.
He said the board seems to be singling the faculty out as part of the problem of the budget crisis.

“We’re [the faculty] not part of the problem, we’re part of the solution,” he said.

There was clapping and hooting from the audience members at every pause during Marsden’s speech.

Herbert Molano, community activist, commented on the fiscal fitness of the college.

“For a long time I have been a very strong advocate of the community college system,” said Molano, “and I understand how its financial health today is very challenging.”
“It’s especially challenging because today when we have a downturn in the economy. Many adults who are laid off, turn to the community colleges to retrain, so the burdens on you [administrators and the board] are actually doubled,” said Molano.
“The economy is down, the budget is in significant distress and you find more and more people who are going to need the services provided by the community college to be able to allow them to endeavor a new career.”

He commented on resolution 18, section 4, an item that said the Glendale Community College District will pay the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) from the same source of funds used for paying salary, by saying that the return on the investments, during this period of economic distress, would be in a significant amount of downturn in the coming years.
“What I wonder is what that additional burden on you would have on the staff and on the faculty,” said Molano.

Molano’s second point had more to do with state and local budgets and how the cost of one person’s medical transportation costs to the city and, ultimately costs to the state. How costs like that effects the budget when multiplied hundreds of times and how eventually the college feels the impact through its own budget in its ability to fund programs and salaries for the staff and faculty.

“My objective here is to give you an additional type of awareness,” he said.
The board moved on to other topics after the special presentations.

Items on the consent calendar were voted in as well as the concept of a campus beautification fund to plant flowers and renovate areas on campus.

The next board of trustees meeting is scheduled for Dec. 15 in Kreider Hall in the San Rafael Building at 5 p.m.