GCC seeks short-term fix

NORTHEAST GLENDALE — Glendale Community College has found a relatively painless way out of its fiscal crisis, but its plan for a fix may be only temporary, an administrator told the Board of Trustees on Monday.

The news came during a public hearing on the college’s proposed budget, which will skirt around job and salary cuts, but is based on some one-time solutions and questionable state funding maneuvers that could leave the board facing financial trouble within the year, said Ron Nakasone, vice president of administrative services.

The proposed budget would trim the college’s spending by more than $1 million from last year, to $86.9 million, and made up for state funding cuts using a hiring freeze and by cutting a third of the college’s winter offerings, Nakasone said.

The college could have lost up to $3 million and might have been forced to incorporate an across-the-board employee salary cut of at least 2% if its finances were as bad as originally projected, Nakasone said.

But changes to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s initial proposals for midyear state budget adjustments instituted a community college fee increase, from $20 to $26 a unit, which is expected to generate about $1 million.

The finalized adjustments also dealt a lesser blow to community colleges than anticipated and allowed the college to carry over $6.39 million in unspent funds from the 2008-09 academic year, he said.

Still, the college’s tighter resources have left it mirroring budget approaches seen in Sacramento, which has based many of its solutions on one-time funding streams, he said.

“We also used some one-time budget solutions,” said Nakasone, explaining that the entire leftover $6.39 million had been allocated in the proposed budget, leaving officials dependent on a funding source that may not be around in the future.

Trustees cautioned against developing a “rosy picture” about the college’s balanced budget.

“This is a hard budget,” board Vice President Anita Quinonez Gabrielian said. “We have had a lot of reductions.”

The cuts will affect students, particularly through unfilled teaching vacancies and a reduction to the college’s abbreviated winter session, which many students rely on to help complete transfer requirements, Gabrielian said.

“This is very difficult for our budget committee and for the college and for the community, but I think that we’ve done a great job in making sure that we still prioritize our student services,” she said.

The college will be at risk of losing funds if the state has to slash its allocations to community colleges in the middle of the year, which is likely, Nakasone said.

And administrators will need to plan for significant cuts for the 2010-11 academic year, when state officials will likely be searching for savings after having moved some of California’s current expenses into next year’s budget, he said.

Lawmakers approved a budget plan last month that defers multiple payments from the end of the current fiscal year to the beginning of the next fiscal year in a move that will allow them to account for that spending at a later date, he said.

“That’s saving money in 2009-2010, but it’s going to have to be restored in 10-11,” he said.

With the state’s moves adding to its funding responsibilities in the 2010-11 fiscal year, the college will be at risk of losing more funds, something that should influence the board to boost savings now, he said.

Nakasone suggested that the college pursue one of its proposals for savings that it did not include in the current budget: the 2% across-the-board pay cut for employees.

Ramona Barrio-Sotillo, president of the college’s faculty union, questioned Nakasone’s suggestion in light of the balanced budget proposal he had put forth.

She argued that with the budget apparently in good standing for the current year, perhaps salary cuts are not necessary.

Nakasone responded by cautioning about cuts to come in the future, suggesting that without taking preparatory steps now, employees might face a salary cut proposal of as high as 5%.

“I’m just trying to soften the blow,” he said.

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

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