Sacramento’s Budget Crisis Hits Glendale

Troy Cornell

Three months ago, it seemed as thought it couldn’t get much worse for GCC.

The school was in uncharted waters. The economy was driving up tuition fees at California’s four-year institutions, putting more people back in community college and thus creating a skyrocketing application pool.

Now three months later, the college is facing another problem. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed slashing spending on education by $3 billion to close gaps in the budget, a quick fix for a long-term problem.

“The governor has made his proposals and they’ve been awful, but he doesn’t have the last word,” said John Queen, president of the Academic Senate.

As a result, the proposed cuts in the budget by the governor would end up costing the school $8-9 million dollars, according to interim vice president of administrative services Ron Nakasone. The magic number: $5.7 million that needs to be balanced.

“We’ll have to see how bad the budget is when it plays out. Just because the proposed impact on Glendale is going to be $9 million doesn’t mean that’s what it’s going to be,” said Gordon Alexandre, president of the Glendale College Guild.

“I’m more of the opinion that it will be $4 or $5 million. There’s no rosy picture here.”
However, there is a plan to combat either scenario should a fiscal emergency find its way to GCC’s doorstep.

A fiscal emergency task force has been put in place, which will expands on the current budget committee to look into the budget and how it affects various areas of GCC, according to Alexandre.

The task force will then simulate the effects of the two different budget cuts, and then advise the budget committee on what needs to happen.

“We know we’re going to have to tighten our belts,” said Alexandre “But its not necessarily going to be as draconian as the governor would have us believe.”

Yesterday, a budget meeting to strategize and blueprint the talks that will carry on through the summer was held. Principles were established to set clear goals for the budget committee.

Topping priority lists for both Alexandre and Nakasone was to first minimize the impact of the budget crisis on the students and to share the burden equally between the administrative services, instructional services, student services, information technology, human resources and the president’s office.

Alexandre reaffirmed that the laying off faculty members was not an option, however if the cuts are in the region of $9 million, cutting classes will be an option that will be considered and consequentially lay off part-time staff.

Alexandre believes that up to 160 classes could possibly be cut next year, equating to 5 percent of the classes offered at GCC. As a result, thousands of students could be displaced and classroom congestion will be a nightmare for faculty members already struggling with larger than normal class sizes.

“We’re going to have to leave no stone unturned,” said Alexandre. “We’re going to have to look at full-time salaries, we’re going to have to look at administrative salaries and other areas where we can save money so we don’t have to lay off full-timers.”

“There’s a fine line between doing too much and not enough.”

To augment student-based problems, the talk of a tripling in per unit fees from $20 to $60 as well as axing Cal Grants altogether has been a topic widely discussed among California legislators.

A hike in student fees, all the while eliminating the state based financial aid, would further erode the ambitions of thousands of current and future students looking for an affordable education.

“I don’t see it being raised to $60,” said Nakasone in regards to unit fees “But I do think the student fees are going to go up next year.”

“It would be a real disaster for students,” said Queen.

Although many legislators argue that the increase in student fees could be easily offset by financial aid and student loans, anyone just slightly above the financial aid cut-off point would find themselves “in a real difficult situation,” according to Queen.

“No student is going to come here [GCC] and take a photography class for $180,” said Nakasone.

“Anywhere you look, things are looking pretty scary. I don’t expect the federal government to arrive with the cavalry and solve our budget problems,” said Queen.
Although these are merely proposals by the governor to the state legislator, the things that are being discussed impact Glendale’s budget in such a way that the school potentially will not be able to offer the caliber of services that it has in years past according to Nakasone.
“This is the worst it’s been since I’ve been here.” Nakasone said. “We’re going to see some big changes next year.”