New state cut for BCC estimated at $5.1 mil

By Brook Stallings.
On Wednesday in room C120, Vice President of Administrative Services Rachel Solemsaas gave BCC faculty and staff an “Update of Budget Strategies”
Tuition and class fees at BCC will increase 5% a year through 2011. There is currently a 7% state cap on tuition increases, which could be lifted if the budget situation became sufficiently dire.
Students will get an increase in federal financial grants from the stimulus package passed by Congress. Pell Grants, the principal federal grant program, will be increased from a maximum of $4,731 this year to $5,550 in 2011. Also, there will be a new $2,500 tuition federal tax credit.
Low income Washington students will get larger State Need Grants. This will be offset by giving less money to moderate income students.
Faculty received an up-to-the-minute briefing on state budget cuts and how they affect BCC through July 2011.
The talk gave a recap of the state’s financial woes, what Governor Christine Gregoire and the legislature are proposing, BCC’s financial status and the planning principles BCC will use.
Solemsaas began her talk with the recession. There is a familiar pattern to the events unfolding, she said. As the unemployment rate goes up, enrollment at community colleges goes up. Community college enrollments were up over 6% in 2008.
As demand for worker retraining increases, state funding for retraining decreases. Worker retraining full time enrollments (FTEs) are up 26% from 2007 to 2008.
One FTE is one person takig 15 credits for 3 quarters in one academic year, Solemsaas said. Governor Gregoire’s earlier budget proposal relied on a 2009-2011 shortfall estimate of $5.9 billion. It attempted to minimize the impact of budget cuts on children, while proposing no new taxes, according to Solemsaas.
The most recent state revenue estimate puts the predicted deficit at $8.2 billion. The next estimate will be in March, and may be even higher, Solemsaas said.
Strategies the state may use to offset the revenue shortfall are new taxes and use of the state rainy day fund, now around $600 million. Planners are also expecting about $1 billion dollars for education in Washington State from the federal stimulus plan.
However, the new estimate is prompting the state senate to consider $1.6 billion in additional cuts. 58% of the state budget is off limits. Higher education can be cut, however, and is 10% of the total state budget, or $3.6 billion.
Solemsaas now expects a $5.1 million cut, up from previous estimates of $2.5 million. After cost-cutting measures such as dropping leases, the shortfall would be $1.7 million. This could mean an additional 6% cut across the board in operating funds.
State funds make up 58% of operating funds, used to fund day-to-day operations. 79% of operating funds go towards salaries and benefits.
The state government wants to maintain current enrollment levels, keep college affordable for lower income students, take into account the different purposes of two-year and four-year colleges and fund programs that train students for high-demand professions.
Solemsaas expects the college to proceed by finalizing plans for the 4.1% state funding cuts in 2009, by making plans for a “worst case scenario” of an 11.9% state funding cut and by using budget surveys to help identify areas to protect.