BC Unanimously Approves 9.2% Budget Increase for 2023-2024 with Focus on Staff, Tuition, and Bold Proposals

Sean Wu // The Watchdog

On June 20, the Bellevue College (BC) Board of Trustees voted unanimously to adopt a new budget for 2023–2024. The new budget totals approximately $131 million. This marks an increase from the 2022–2023 budget, which was approximately $120 million. Statistically, the new budget is a 9.2% increase from last year.

While some may assume a 9.2% budget increase would translate to a 9.2% increase in tuition fees, BC projects that a combination of increased enrollment and use of remaining funds from last year will allow for a much smaller 3% increase in state tuition, and a 2.2% increase in Running Start tuition (tuition for dual enrollment in high school and college).

This increased budget is dedicated to a few different causes.

First off, BC is dedicating funds to Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) for staff and faculty. COLAs are meant to counteract the impact of inflation, and to ensure that employees can continue to live at similar standards, even as the cost of living rises. BC plans to distribute these adjustments according to the type of employee, with part-time faculty seeing the highest increases at 9.5%, full-time faculty coming in a close second with 8.9% increases, and exempt and classified staff trailing behind with only a 4% increase. COLAs are projected to account for $4.5 million of the budget increase.

BC is also dedicating an additional $2.1 million towards its part-time faculty budget. This is meant to help accommodate the increased enrollment that has been projected for next year.

Furthermore, an additional $800,000 has been reserved for CTC Link conversion funding.

The board is also considering the allocation of $350,000 for one-time marketing and web design costs, as well as $9.7 million for capital expenditures — that is, maintenance of existing facilities and land. These decisions are slated for future consideration, but are still notable as potential expenses.

There were a few other financial considerations of note at the June 20 meeting.

Firstly, the faculty requested a new planetarium system and projector to replace the near-obsolete one they’re currently using. As routine as a new equipment request sounds, the cost is anything but: in the words of faculty representative Sue Nightingale, the new system is “gonna cost a lot of zeroes.” Rather than pull the funding for this from the existing budget, though, Nightingale suggested that separate, dedicated fundraising be pursued for the new system. This means the burden of paying for the system will fall on philanthropists, rather than cropping up in next year’s tuition. The board agreed to consider this, though they didn’t rush into any decisions.

The Associated Student Government (ASG) also made a bold spending proposal. They suggested that $1.5 million be set aside in the Services and Activities (S&A) budget — a subset of the college budget that the ASG is responsible for formulating and suggesting to the Board — for the construction of a new health clinic. At the time of writing, it is unknown whether the S&A budget proposed has been adopted, but the Board did warn that even if the budget is approved, additional research will need to be done into the need for and impact of a health clinic, and that any shortfalls in other areas of the S&A budget would likely be compensated for by taking money from the health clinic fund equal to the value of the shortfall.

In short, the budget has seen some fairly routine tweaks, as well as some bold proposals that will require further consideration moving forward.