Local community colleges face cuts

Glendale Community College may see its budget shrink an additional $1.9 million this year — its share of an unexpected $149-million cut to the California community college system announced this week.

It would follow on the heels of $5.7-million in lost revenue the college has already sustained since the start of the current fiscal year on July 1, said Ron Nakasone, vice president of administrative services.

“This is the third cut we have had to absorb this year,” he said. “It was not planned for, so we are trying to find areas to cut. It’s hard because there are so few places left to look.”

The college has instituted a purchasing freeze under which only critical purchases are being allowed.

District budgets have been a moving target since the onset of the economic downturn in 2008. In December, California’s 112-college system took a $102-million hit after lower-than-hoped-for state revenues triggered mid-year cuts — a difficult, although not unexpected, adjustment for local college officials.

But this time, the budget news seems to have caught many off guard. In a statement released Tuesday, California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott said that the developing $149-million shortfall is due to lower-than-projected property tax revenues and increased demand for student fee waivers.

“Because of the poor economy, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of students receiving the California Community Colleges Board of Governors Fee Waiver,” Scott said. “This alone accounts for $107 million of the added shortfall.”

During the last 18 months, cost-cutting measures at Glendale Community College have included the reduction of summer session, the elimination of winter session, pay reductions for the management, faculty and classified employee bargaining units, and early retirement incentives for faculty members.

“We are looking at making additional mid-year cuts,” Nakasone said. “Class section cuts are not planned since spring is already in session, but hourly and student workers are a possibility.”

Morale among faculty members at the college is already flagging, Faculty Guild President Isabelle Saber said, and the latest news is causing further anxiety.

“We are just trying to roll with the punches right now and do right by our students because we are, first and foremost, teachers,” Saber said.

At Pasadena City College, the additional mid-year cuts translate to a loss of about $2.8 million. The college is offering 49 fewer classes than planned this semester after officials eliminated 96 classes with low enrollment and created 47 new ones in more popular subjects, said spokesman Juan Gutierrez.

In addition to eliminating classes, Pasadena City College also canceled assignments for faculty who retired but stayed on to teach classes on a part-time basis. Those faculty members are paid at a higher rate than other part-time teachers, according to trustee Bill Thomson.

“Given the budget mess the state’s in, we just can’t hire back prior faculty at a higher salary,” he said.

Staff writer Joe Piasecki contributed to this report.

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