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Creating A Budget for 2009-2010

Submitted by on May 29, 2009 – 10:50 amNo Comment

Dr.-Norman-Stephens-wide

Over the years, I’ve become somewhat philosophical about such things as annual operating budgets and long-range strategic plans–philosophical in the sense that I find the process of their development more interesting and more important than the final products which, after all, are just numbers and words on a bunch of pages.  Don’t misunderstand, at SFCC we now have a viable and balanced budget for the 2009-2010 Fiscal Year, and a visionary long-range strategic plan is on the table, under review, and awaiting formal consideration by the Board of Trustees later next month.   

In the case of the annual operating budget, it is all of the discussion; the broad participation and fervent disagreement in the debate over priorities; the wondering, worrying, and speculating about the political process that determines our state funding; the forecasting of enrollments; and the many decisions that result in the numbers on pages–actually electrons located in magnetic fields on disks and microchips–that I find most fascinating.  Years ago, I found this process somewhat frustrating, but now I’m philosophical about it.  

The economy of Florida is in worse shape than we’ve experienced in many years and the experts disagree on when we’ll see any measurable improvement–next year, the year after, there is no consensus.  All of us who manage organizations funded by government have a responsibility to limit our expenditures to our highest priorities and to those activities and initiatives that will most benefit and respond to the needs of those we serve.  We also have a responsibilty to think long-term.  The uncertainties of these times make that very difficult, but we do the best we can.  

In recessions, unemployment increases.  It is also true that in recessions, more people seek further education to improve their employability.  At SFCC, our enrollment has increased about 15 percent over the two years since the first signs of this current economic downturn.  At the same time, our state revenues have decreased  more than 10 percent during that same period.  Fortunately, the enrollment increases have brought some additional revenues, but even so, the total revenues for the past two years have declined about 4 percent.  Funding per student has declined nearly 20 percent since the 2007-2008 fiscal year.  We’ve had considerable discussion about priorities! 

Our first priority is to keep our doors open and ensure that quality learning experiences are available for our students.  To do this requires that we have competent and dedicated faculty–full-time and adjuncts.  In order to afford the faculty necessary to teach the increasing numbers of students, we’ve had to eliminate administrative and other support positions as they have become vacant due to retirements and resignations.  The remaining staff has to work harder–and wear more hats.  We’ve also experienced increasing class sizes, but we are very careful to avoid large unmanageable numbers.  On average, a 10 percent enrollment increase without adding additional sections would result in about 2 additional students per class.  We do add additional sections as student demand increases, but these are often taught by adjunct faculty since the full-time faculty are already teaching full loads and more.

Unfortunately, we have increasing operational costs adding to our budget challenges.  For example, our utilities and insurance expenditures, particularly health insurance, continue to increase.  Our committment to educational technology also has a price although we’ve been fortunate to have other sources of funding from grants, construction projects, and various federal sources to help keep our classrooms and laboratories up to date. 

On Wednesday, May 27, the Governor signed the General Appropriation Act and later that evening, the SFCC Board of Trustees approved our operating and capital outlay budgets for 2009-2010.  We’re ready for a new year with even more students while providing the best quality education possible. 

For those of you who like numbers, our budgeted expenditures for Fiscal Year 2010 will be $21,270,506.  Last year, our original budget was $21,499,124 but state revenues were reduced twice during the year.  Further reductions in the coming year are quite possible–we are prepared.

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