Community colleges face possible cuts

Home Archived News Community colleges face possible cuts

Moria Dailey

Published: April 26, 2006

PJC and other Florida community colleges could be facing financial hardships if the Florida Senate has its way.

The Senate’s proposed budget for community colleges is much lower than that of the Florida House of Representatives or the governor’s recommendation. 

If the House budget were implemented PJC would get approximately a four percent funding increase; however, if the Senate budget is implemented then PJC is only looking at about a two percent increase.

“The House came very near the governor’s [recommendation],” PJC President Tom Delaino said.

PJC’s governmental lobbyist, Larry Bracken, explained that the primary difference between the Senate and House proposed budgets, not just for community colleges, but in general, can be explained by the use of recurring and nonrecurring monies.  Recurring monies are available this year and will also be available next year; nonrecurring monies are available only this year and are not expected to be available next year.

The proposed budgets differ on all areas, not just on education, Bracken said.

The state of Florida has seen a large influx of nonrecurring money this year because of all of the hurricanes.  Bracken explained that there was “a huge sales tax on plywood and shingles” that has increased the amount of money the state has access to.

Though it may seem that the Senate’s proposed budget would be bad for community colleges, both it and the House’s proposed budget have their strengths and weaknesses.  For instance, the Senate’s budget proposal calls for no tuition increase, while the House’s calls for a three percent tuition increase.

The Senate budget also allocates more money to public broadcasting, which would provide more money to PJC’s WSRE television station.

Like any other business, PJC is looking at fixed cost increases.  Fixed costs are things like insurance, electricity, and gas prices that affect the way the school functions, much like household bills affect the ways students function.

With only a two percent increase, PJC would be able to only cover those fixed cost increases, as opposed to having any extra money.  Delaino explained that if PJC were to receive only a two percent increase steps would have to be taken to save money and transfer that money into other outlets.

“Over 70 percent of our cost is in personnel,” Delaino said, “Our first course of action would be to look at vacant positions and see what could be left out without harming students.  There are no plans that include layoffs.”

Any personnel changes would be made with students in mind, Delaino said; the college would attempt to make changes that would have the least impact on student services as possible, but some impact is inevitable.

PJC is one of four colleges at the bottom of the scale of monetary distribution because of the decrease in enrollment the college has seen.  Delaino said that PJC’s enrollment had been flat for years, but has seen a dramatic drop in the past two years.

“We will feel the impact much more than the other 28 community colleges [in Florida].  Some colleges will get fairly large amounts of money because of greater enrollment,” he said.

Delaino is optimistic, however; he thinks the final budget will be much closer to the House’s proposed budget.

“The state has a significant amount of money- more than ever-and significant pressure is being applied saying that money spent on community colleges is important.  Information is also being spread heavily, and I think with the money available, we will see more money,” he said.

According to Bracken, as of press time the Senate and House education appropriations committee had met in conference and came to agreement on several points of disagreement between the two proposed budgets.  Details of the final decision were unavailable at the time, though Bracken was able to say that the issues of a tuition increase and employee salaries were both “bumped up” to a higher appropriations committee because education appropriations committee was unable to come to an agreement on those issues.

The information regarding the specifics of the final budget will be available on eCorsair as soon as it is made available to the public.

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