Coast approves $10 million budget hike

The Coast Community College District Board of Trustees unanimously has approved a $238-million budget — about $10 million more than last year.

Now that the district is recovering from budget cuts that plagued previous years, officials are feeling increased pressure to hire more full-time faculty members.

Vice Chancellor Andy Dunn presented to the board during its Wednesday meeting what he called a structurally balanced budget for fiscal 2013-14. This is the first year since 2007 that the board hasn't been forced into crippling budget cuts, according to budget documents.

"When I came in at the end of 2008, it felt like I had the rug pulled out from under me," said board President Lorraine Prinsky. "For the first time, we're feeling that we're on a level field."

Dunn credited the improvement to Proposition 30, a temporary tax hike approved by voters in November, and prudent fiscal planning by the board and Gov. Jerry Brown.

This year's budget also restores categorical funding almost to the $600-million level seen in 2007. Categorical funding pays for support programs such as student financial aid and C.A.R.E, which aids single-parent students.

Beginning in 2008, categorical program funding was reduced to $376 million, which resulted in many programs being reduced by half and some being eliminated completely, according to a memo from Dunn to Chancellor Andrew Jones that was published in the budget.

"Statewide categorical program funding for the 2013-14 fiscal year stands at $584 million, restoring much of what was lost in the last six years," Dunn wrote.

Dean Mancina, president of the Coast Federation of Educators and a full-time faculty member at Golden West College, stressed to the board the urgency of hiring more full-time employees now that the district's fiscal outlook is improving. He said the district has relied too heavily on part-time faculty.

"For a community college of our size, we have one of the smallest full-time faculty teams in the state," he said. "The full-time faculty have been stretched to their limit."

Dunn agreed that hiring needs to be addressed.

"We're down well over 200 employees," Dunn said. "We're asking people to do a lot more with a lot less. There's a certain limit with that elasticity."

The state requires community college districts to employ about 411 full-time faculty at all times or risk being fined $60,000 per vacant faculty position, Mancina said. Coast Community — which in addition to Golden West is made up of Coastline Community College and Orange Coast College — currently employs 413 full-time faculty, according to budget documents.

"As we learned last year when we hired 29 full-time faculty to partially replace the 33 who left that year, it pushes the district's resources to the limit to hire that many faculty in one year," Mancina said.

He suggested hiring a minimum of 30 faculty members per year for the next several years instead of relying solely on part-time educators. However, district officials said they are not ready to put a number on how many new hires need to be made.

Student Trustee Tanner Kelly said full-time faculty are necessary on campus because they are more accessible to students compared with part-time faculty, who generally leave campus after teaching their classes.

"For students who are struggling, those office hours are crucial," he said.

The board agreed to put the hiring discussion on a future meeting agenda.

"There's no question that the board wants this to happen," said Trustee David Grant.

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