In the wake of criticism by a district trustee, the Ventura County Community College District this week cut its proposed $100,000 in travel allowances for trustees and administrators by more than $30,000.
However, most of the money saved would be put into a reserve fund, where it could be tapped for travel by a vote of the board.
Tim Hirschberg, the trustee who had most vigorously objected to the proposed travel budget, said the decision, made during adoption Tuesday of the district's $57.8-million budget, represented more than an academic difference.
"It isn't a shell game," he said. "I think it represents a commitment by the district to keep a better account of its funds."
Tom Ely, Board of Trustees president, emphasized that the move was merely a matter of revising accounting procedures.
"Through all the discussion, there was not one implication of any impropriety, lack of morality in accounting or overspending by anybody," Ely said.
Hirschberg, a trustee since 1987, had complained that administrators were making unnecessary trips to conventions and seminars, diverting money from the district's three colleges in Oxnard, Moorpark and Ventura.
The original $101,895 travel budget would have allowed district officials to spend nearly twice the amount they spent on travel two years ago, an increase that had led Hirschberg to characterize the district's travel budget as "ballooning" and "runaway."
Under the revised budget, district Chancellor Barbara Derryberry and executive vice chancellor Ray Hearon will lose $10,200 that had been designated for their car allowances. Another $24,500 also designated for district travel will be funneled instead into the reserve fund.
The moves lower the travel budget from a proposed $101,895 to $67,000 for about 60 district employees, including the five elected trustees and a student trustee. The new allowance is about $8,800 less than the $76,047 district officials spent on travel last year. "The figure is substantially deflated," Hirschberg said. "I'm very happy about that."
At Tuesday's meeting, Hirschberg also proposed that the district break its travel budget into clearer categories, rather than lumping travel money into "one jumbo account." That would allow board members to have a more accurate measure of how and where travel money is being spent, he said.
Although trustees approved Hirschberg's proposal, Tom Kimberling, vice chancellor for administrative services, said the change would probably not go into effect until next year. Kimberling said it would be too difficult to break down the budget that is already in place. He said he would be meeting with staff members later in the week to start reviewing travel items that could be itemized in next year's budget.
District travel expenditures previously have been criticized as excessive. Responding to such criticism, trustees in 1987 voted to limit themselves to travel expenses of $1,000 each.