GCC trustee candidates take the floor

Money — where to get it and how to use it — was the main topic Thursday as the three Glendale Community College Board of Trustees candidates sparred publicly for the first time.

Small-businessman Vartan Gharpetian is challenging incumbents Vahe Peroomian and Tony Tartaglia in the April 5 election for their seats on the five-member board, which governs fiscal management and policy making at the college.

Glendale Community College has seen its annual budget shrink by 9% to about $86 million since the onset of the economic recession, and in a worst-case scenario could lose another $10 million next year.

The current board has been a strong financial steward during troubled economic times, said Peroomian and Tartaglia, who joined the board in 2005 and 2007, respectively.

Last year, the college serviced 3,000 more full-time students than what was funded by the state, said Peroomian, a physics professor and senior researcher at UCLA.

Glendale Community College is one of the few community colleges that hasn’t eliminated its winter and summer sessions, he added. And the board has brought in additional dollars for special projects and programs, such as the Verdugo Power Academy, which trains students for careers in the utility industry.

“Tony and I have both lobbied on both the state and federal level. I don’t think that is a wrong tree to bark up. We did get stimulus funds. We are earmarked — I know everyone hates that word, but we are desperate — for two different projects by Congressman [Adam] Schiff,” Peroomian said.

During his 13 years on the Glendale College Foundation Board, he helped raise $2.5 million, said Tartaglia, public affairs manager with the Southern California Gas Co. That endowment continues to grow, he said, and since joining the board four years ago, he helped establish the college’s first fiscal reserve policy of 5%.

When questions are raised about prudent fiscal management, the response by the board is aggressive and swift, he said.

“I think this team is one of the most fiscally prudent teams that this college has seen in a long time,” Tartaglia said.

Gharpetian, who has lived in Glendale with his wife and three daughters since 1994, owns a commercial real estate brokerage firm that employs 25 people, he said. In 2009, Gharpetian ran unsuccessfully for Glendale City Council and previously served on one of the city’s two Design Review Boards.

The first step in successfully managing the college’s budget is not to waste money, Gharpetian said. Cuts should be distributed evenly through the departments.

“I think in this economy, getting funds from outside sources is very important, but on the other hand, we need to be responsible with the funds that we have and not waste it,” Gharpetian said. “If I am your employee, and you are asking me to take a pay cut, and you are going out and spending money on issues that are not important to that business, I would not take that pay cut.”

He also argued that the current board has made its share of mistakes, pointing out that the college is spending tens of thousands of dollars to buy out the remainder of the contract for former President/Supt. Audre Levy, who left in 2009 after a tumultuous three years at the campus.

The public will have another opportunity to meet the candidates at a town hall meeting 12:20 p.m. Tuesday at Glendale Community College.

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