State of emergency at GCC

NORTHEAST GLENDALE — The Glendale Community College Board of Trustees declared a state of emergency Monday that will allow it to avoid a previously planned 1% employee pay raise that would have further challenged the cash-strapped institution.

Trustees faced little protest from employee and faculty leaders after unanimously approving the resolution, which was made in an effort to protect the college from wide-ranging funding cuts being discussed by state lawmakers.

With the budget crisis still developing, “making a 1% raise is not the most fiscally prudent thing to do,” board President Vahe Peroomian said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in response to the state’s projected $24-billion deficit, has proposed more than $940 million in cuts to community colleges, a move that would strip up to $8 million from Glendale Community College’s $88-million budget, said Ron Nakasone, interim vice president of administrative services.

State officials have withheld an additional $4 million in payments to the college, which Nakasone expects to receive in July, but part of Schwarzenegger’s savings plan involves deferring another $1.5 million.

Administrators have expressed concern that losses of that magnitude could force a quarter of its 16,000 students out of classrooms.

The cuts could also have dire implications for more expensive programs like nursing, emergency medical technology, culinary arts, computer design, and support services for students with special needs, which are paid for with state grants that could be slashed by up to 60%, Nakasone said.

If trustees were forced to pay a 1% salary increase to employees, they would have had to cut costs elsewhere, Nakasone said.

“If we didn’t do the fiscal emergency we would have had to cut an additional $675,000 from the budget,” he said.

College employees did not protest the board’s decision to declare the emergency, but called on trustees to distribute the effects of cuts evenly across the college, rather than directing them at cleaning, clerical or gardening staffs, among other workers, said Saodat Aziskhanova, president of the college’s chapter of the California School Employees Assn.

“Honestly it’s not about who takes what or what we do, but this is really a time where we all need to come together,” she said.

Trustees also adopted a tentative budget plan for the upcoming academic year.

The plan was based on the state’s February budget plan and did not accommodate for any cuts that could come from additional state reductions.

Legislators initially adopted a plan in February to close a projected $42-billion budget gap, but dramatically low state tax revenues put that proposal $15 billion short of resolving the deficit, even before voters rejected five critical measures in a special election that jacked the shortfall up to $24 billion.

The special-election measures would have included $6 billion in borrowing to help close the budget gap, but with that revenue source now unavailable Schwarzenegger suggested deep cuts to education, among other services, to keep California from going broke.

While administrators don’t expect all of Schwarzenegger’s proposals to gain approval from lawmakers, who are negotiating a solution to close the state’s revenue shortfall, they expect to have to cut some services.

Administrators have suggested eliminating the college’s winter intersession or restructuring summer payments for instructors as two potential solutions to help keep classes in session during losses.

The college has not made any decisions on the range of reductions presented by Nakasone, but the board will do so by September, when it is required to adopt a budget, Peroomian said.

“I think all of those are going to be tough, but it’s something we’re going to have to do,” he said.


 ZAIN SHAUK covers education. He may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at zain.shauk@latimes.com.

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