Tentative Budget Leaves Programs Dangling

Michael Konigsberg
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Measure G may have passed March 5, but it will give next to zero support to Glendale Community College’s administrative budget come June if state government has community colleges pay for the current economic crisis.

Due to California’s energy crisis last year and current economic slow-down, the funds normally available for schools are dwindling. When Gov. Gray Davis presented his budget in January, “we were expecting some reductions,” said GCC controller Ron Nakasone.

This crunch reflects a nationwide problem of decreased state college course offerings, tuition hikes and enrollment caps. Regarding this third issue, state colleges receive a certain amount of funding for each student enrolled full time. However, because of the national recession, this subsidy will be significantly reduced. This comes at a time when enrollment at state colleges is increasing; therefore, enrollment caps, or limits, may be imposed.

Students and staff at GCC invested great hopes in Measure G, expecting an influx of cash to salve all campus financial woes. However, the bond measure’s projected $98 million in benefits, though substantial, can be used only for the physical improvement of the campus, expanding classroom space, renovating administrative and instructional space, adding parking and upgrading facilities. The hired hands running the campus’ student services and all their materials will see none of it.

The loss of state monies could inestimably cripple the programs on which students depend, like the Welfare-to-Work program; CalWorks; Matriculation Services, which aids students making steps toward transferring and Telecommunication and Technology Infrastructure, which provides all electronic information systems.

During any other year, legislators would be counting on the fixed portion of capital gains tax revenue, established by Proposition 98, to fund schools. But in the current climate of recession, insufficient income, sales and property tax revenue will not adequately fill California’s treasury – only a year after the end of a decade-long surplus.

The effects of a national recession typically take longer to hit a state economy like California’s, overextending the illusion of extra spending ability.

State social services like Social Security will take a heavy hit, too, but budgeters expect to keep most of them at the expense of community colleges, a decision reminiscent of Davis’ reallocation of $6 billion from community college funds for last year’s energy crisis.

Interim Vice President of Instructional Services Steven White said he believed that the state Legislature should save rather than spend the state’s surplus revenue, but, he says, “That takes too much planning and foresight that seems to be beyond the capacity of our [representatives].”

White also said he knows GCC is not alone in this crisis. All of California’s 108 community colleges face the same problem. White said they would likely agree on what they need and want but that they lack the singular leadership to address them.

White and representatives from those other colleges have been lobbying the state Legislature for the restoration of their money. On April 29, GCC’s delegation travels to Sacramento for the state Lobby Day, when each campus delegation meets legislators one after another with their cause.

Should their lobbying efforts succeed, the budget’s May revision, which will be finalized June 30, will return a crucial sum to campuses statewide.

“We want to serve [students] and make classes accessible to everyone. That’s the idea behind a community college,” White said.

Restoring that money is crucial, he said. “It must happen.”