The Times queried the candidates for the Ventura County Community College District Board of Trustees about three key issues. Today's responses are to question No. 2:
State funding cuts have been identified as one of the most pressing problems in the Ventura County Community College District. For example, the district last year was forced to make $5 million in cuts and was warned that it must continue to be frugal--or face bankruptcy. What do you believe is the best way to handle the shortage of funds?
Timothy D. Hirschberg
The college district must enforce strict budgetary accountability to maximize educational resources. The classroom must remain the first priority of every dollar. Administrative overhead must be streamlined wherever possible.
At the current board's urging, the district is now conducting a full management audit. It is hoped that the results will identify areas of the bureaucracy that can be consolidated and even cut.
The district needs to aggressively pursue alternative sources of funding. Government and private grants need to be more often sought for specific projects. We also need to enhance efforts to forge mutually beneficial relationships with industry.
We need to define productivity measures and use resources more effectively by using "zero-base" analysis. This would allow us to prioritize, thus eliminating those courses which historically have not resulted in a high placement of students after graduation. A possible example is the farm program at Ventura College.
Numerous factors have contributed to the financial problems facing our district. Some of the blame lies with the management by the board and the administration; however, other variables such as low priority funding by the state and a recession have played their part.
To avoid bankruptcy we must prioritize our expenditures. Required, mandated, special service and highly attended classes should be placed at the top of the list.
We must educate everyone on the need to invest in education. Education is the future for our country. We must fight to reinstate numerous federal and state programs that have been cut or eliminated.
Michael A. Musca
The best way to handle a shortage of funds is to heed the fair warning of frugality. The district must understand that this year's state budget cuts are not a one-time occurrence. Rather, the cuts are just the beginning of the future for state funding.
Therefore, we must take a hard look at this year's budget and seek further cost-cutting areas, in anticipation of the state's next move.
Proactively, the district must seek the trust of and alliances with local business and community leaders. Many answers to our problems can be found within our own community.
The best way to handle a shortage of funds is to be realistic in our approach to the budget process and continue with a balanced budget policy. A great asset of the district is the small reserve in this year's budget, as well as the fact that it is debt-free. Deficit spending in the near term will only cause problems in later years.
This situation of tight funds will not last forever and any sacrifices and/or cuts made now will pay off later. Investigate development of certain district land holdings, in conjunction with private industry, into income-producing assets.
The best way to handle the shortage of funds that are available to operate the Ventura community colleges is to assure that every dollar spent benefits the students as much as possible. So far this has been accomplished mostly by increasing class size to reduce the number of teachers required. This approach will reduce the quality of education received by the students if it is taken too far.
The next area of cost reduction must be in the streamlining of administrative costs. Some of the less important services will have to be reduced or eliminated.
Allan W. Jacobs
The budget must be balanced. That means a reduction in expenditures. Normally I would seek input from my constituents, staff and students. However, without access to those groups my priorities would be as follows:
Last to go: Basic classroom instruction. Career education classes. Campus safety. Student support services.
To be reviewed: Low enrollment classes. High-cost classes. Services not classroom related. Travel and conference. District support personnel.
In addition: I would aggressively pursue legislation equalizing funding for community colleges, thus providing more funds for the district because it is a growth district.
Marilyn E. Maurer
While this notion may not be popular with some people, I think the first cuts should be the elimination of non-productive classes. I think academic and vocational courses should receive top priority. Enrichment courses may have to take a back seat until more funds are available.
We need to focus on the needs of the community and seek ways the community can assist in funding. There are many community colleges involved in developing tailor-made classes for business, government and industry and dispatching instructors to the job site. English as a Second Language is an example of such a service.
Higher costs and turning away students by the universities will make for an influx of students at the community college. Unless the state cuts back on ADA, the college will be getting larger sums of money in the future.
Cuts will still have to be made. We must set our priorities. Do we cut fat at the administrative level or cut into needed classrooms? We must be more frugal with our money, including expenses incurred by administration for such things as trips, travel and lodging. They can't continue to eat prime rib when in fact we should be living on Hamburger Helper.