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College District Approves Record Budget

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Despite recent cuts in funding, trustees for the Ventura County Community College District have approved a record $205-million budget, school officials said this week.

Trustees cleared the budget with little discussion, even though some are still irked by state funding cuts that will require the district’s three colleges to trim supply budgets and hold off on needed repairs.

Board members wanted a “sign of unity” in unanimously passing the 2001-02 budget in the wake of the terrorist attacks, officials said.

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“Sticking together is very important at this time,” said trustee John Tallman.

Nevertheless, Tallman and other trustees said they are concerned whether revenue from enrollment fees will be steady enough to support planned spending.

“If I think forward a little bit, it makes me wonder if a lot of [students] will leave because of the pending war. That would have an impact,” said Bob Gonzales, the board’s president.

Enrollment at the Ventura, Oxnard and Moorpark campuses is at an all-time high, said Patricia Kistler, a district spokeswoman. The total number of students this semester is nearly 35,000, up more than 7% from the previous year.

Kistler said she is not aware of any international students or potential soldiers and sailors withdrawing because of last week’s attacks.

The board’s 4-0 vote to adopt the budget Tuesday came after a Sept. 12 meeting had been postponed because of the attacks.

Trustee Allan Jacobs did not vote because he was out of town.

Before the vote, trustees, staff and audience members observed a moment of silence for the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. In less than 90 minutes, the board dealt with more than a dozen agenda items, including the budget.

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This year’s budget is $39 million more than the previous school year, when the spending plan totaled $166 million.

Despite the record-level budget--boosted by $1 million pulled from reserve accounts--Kistler said district officials remain angry over state funding cuts.

This summer, Gov. Gray Davis killed $98 million in maintenance funding for the state’s 106 community colleges. The local district had anticipated $3 million of that money.

Kistler said the cut was unexpected and unprecedented because the money came from state funds the districts expect to automatically receive each year.

Cuts typically are made to new programs, Kistler said.

“What he did was the pits,” Kistler said.

State legislators have sent a bill to Davis that seeks to restore the maintenance funding. He has until Oct. 14 to make a decision.

The cuts eliminated money for the district’s energy conservation plan, classroom repairs, vocational and technical equipment, books and periodicals, cost-of-living adjustments for part-time faculty and other programs.

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Also cut was $764,000 slated for preliminary work on construction of a $27-million learning center for teachers at Ventura College, Kistler said.

With its new budget, the district has about $112 million in an unrestricted general fund and the remainder in a restricted account that will be used for such programs as health services, police protection and cafeterias.

Moorpark College, the district’s largest at 14,538 students, will get the biggest chunk of general fund money at $34 million. Ventura College, which has 12,324 students, should get about $30 million, and Oxnard, at 7,782 students, could see about $20 million.

The remaining general funds will be used for faculty and staff salaries and operational equipment for all three campuses.

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