Trustees: Plan for worst-case scenario?

By Elizabeth Ballinger.
Reluctant to cut jobs, BCC’s administration will have to lay off teachers and other faculty to meet their $3.5 million target cut for the next two years. After the state compiles its post-holiday economic forecast, that number is likely to get much higher. At the Board of Trustees meeting January 29, VP of Administrative Services Rachel Solemsaas updated the president’s staff and the board with the college’s current budget plan. The college is assuming a maximum 11.9 percent cut, based on the governor’s December budget draft. The problem, Trustee Steve Miller said, is that the governor’s draft is based on the State’s economic reports in November — before record-low holiday sales and January’s mass corporate lay-offs darkened the picture. “I have trouble believing 11.9 percent is worst-case scenario,” he said. “When we’ve been hearing 10, 20, and 30 percent figures and no indication of improvement any time soon.” The Trustees and BCC president Jean Floten agreed, however, that the college can’t wait until spring’s new information clarifies what “worst-case scenario” means for them; they must start planning with a view to some solid figure. “I hope you’re wrong,” Solemsaas told Miller. “Me too,” he said. Retaining faculty, listed as a priority in Solemsaas’ guiding budget cut principles, will be a difficult task. Employee salaries and benefits make up 82 percent of the college’s spending. At present, the college is missing its goal of 60 percent full-time to 40 percent part-time instructors by ten points. With the exception of filling four full-time teaching positions in the last month, no action has been taken to preserve the prescribed “balance of instruction.” “We’re already relying on the goodwill of humans —underpaid adjunct faculty- to keep the college functioning,” said Rosemary Richardson, representing a committee to protect the interests of part-time employees. “How long can we keep doing this?” The college’s guiding principles in the process, according to Floten, include preserving the college’s mission to provide as open a door as possible for higher education and unemployment training to the public, to retain high-quality teaching and student services, and to retain faculty as much as possible. A motion to approve guiding principles was approved 4-0-0, with an amendment recommended by the board that the college include the goal of “working to attain the standard 60/40 balance of instruction.” Other measures taken to meet the budget include trimming hours to student services, cutting programs or services not considered essential to the functioning of the school, and freezing all cost-of-living adjustments. The president’s staff hopes to access additional funds by refinancing the R-building, and accessing lease-savings from the north campus. Tuition increases of five percent in 2009 and another five percent in 2010 are planned to offset the decrease in state money. At present, the college relies on tuition and fees for 44 percent of its income; the other 56 percent comes from the state. “