State Budget Cuts Threaten Campus Programs

Keion Moradi
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Gov. Gray Davis recently proposed a spending plan for 2002-2003 that includes a series of tax increases, budget cuts, cash deferrals, and loans in hopes of solving California’s financial strain, which faces a $23.6 billion gap between expenditures and revenues.

Due to this, Glendale Community College, which receives 53 percent of its revenues from the state, is feeling the impact of the governor’s budget cuts. GCC has a budget that totals $118.5 million. The budget is separated into seven funds that have all indicated a current increase in spending.

The Unrestricted General Fund, comprising the majority of the budget, receives $62.582 million. While spending for 2001-2002 only reached $59.726 million and $52.594 million for 2000-2001, expenses have been increasing and continue to do so at a much more drastic level than revenues.

The Unrestricted General Fund is predominately based on a growth formula derived from our district’s change in population, graduation rate, and the addition of new facilities. This formula sets a limit in regard to the rate at which each district receives state funding for growth.

Should a district allow a percentage of student enrollments that exceeds the growth cap, any extra funding must come from within the district. Last fiscal year, the state set the growth cap for GCC at 4.25 percent. The actual growth for 2001-2002 was 12 percent, much higher than what state officials expected.

Enrollment for 2002-2003 has already risen 2 percent above last year’s 12 percent increase as well. In addition, GCC only received 69 percent of funds allocated from the formulated growth cap for 2001-2002.
The enrollment numbers are not only rising at GCC. Community colleges throughout the state have seen similar increases. The limitation set by the state’s current fiscal condition has even caused districts to turn some students away.

“We started the current fiscal year having to cut into programs in order to balance a deficit of $1.829 million dollars,” said Larry Serot, vice president of administrative services at GCC.

Having failed to receive full growth cap funding from 2001-2002, as well as state cuts in programs such as TTIP (telecommunications and technology infrastructure program), CalWORKS, Matriculation, and Staff Development, the district is required to use its own funding in to fill the gap.

After addressing the initial deficit, the Chancellor’s office notified the college that the uniformity of statewide enrollment percentages had increased so drastically, that an estimated 65 percent of the 2002-2003 growth cap will receive funding. This resulted in a projection of less revenue than originally estimated. The loss in revenue coupled with a recent need to fund additional program requests required another $523,000 in cuts.
The budget cuts that have been initiated appear relatively even.

“The cuts within the district have been fair,” says Ruth Thompson McKernan, dean of library and learning resources at GCC.

“We’re losing $30,000 out of subscription databases [one third to one half of funding],” said McKernan when asked about the impact of the cuts on the library program. ” Not being able to have as many workshops [are] things that definitely harm students.”

Kernan is concerned about lacking the resources needed to prepare students for university level education due to these cuts in the budget. The campus-learning center has also seen the impact of the cuts, having to be conservative when hiring tutors. “We’re limiting students to one hour of tutoring per week and we are emphasizing groups rather than individual tutoring.”

Cuts in the budget have proved most detrimental to course offerings at GCC. Mike Allen, assistant professor of the mathematics department, spoke of “approximately 30 to 40 classes cut this semester as compared to last fall.”

The outlook for the current fiscal year, already looking grim, makes way for 2003-2004 looking even worse. “It’s going to be a really rough few years but we’ll survive it,” says McKernan.