Budget Challenges for 2009 and Beyond
Yesterday, we received official notice of a special session of the Florida Legislature scheduled for Jan. 5 through 16. Obviously, we are concerned about further reductions of state revenues and are working to manage every conceivable contingency. We have implemented several budget adjustments in response to the 4 percent reduction in state funding consistent with the governor’s already announced hold-back of funds. Having become aware of the worsening economic climate after the initial legislative appropriation to community colleges last May, we ensured that we had a strong fund balance at the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2008). Secondly, we continued our practice of not filling positions which become vacant due to retirements or resignations whenever possible to eliminate the function or to reassign the duties. We focused on enhanced enrollment monitoring and class schedule management, since we’ve continued to grow in enrollments this year. We reduced the funds available for physical plant maintenance, capital equipment, and software, which has limited short-term impact. However, it will have long-term consequences should funds continue to remain at the reduced level or should we face further reductions while enrollment continues to grow. We more carefully monitored utility usage and made reductions when possible and capital investments when practical. We reduced travel expenditure budgets, as well as supply budgets (including for instructional programs) by as much as 10 percent. Utilities, insurance, and other costs continue to increase at double-digit rates, so a 4 percent across-the-board cut was not realistic for balancing our budget. We are prepared to endure the 4 percent reduction in state funding as the result of the year-to-date strategies employed for the current fiscal year, although we will continue to monitor expenditures very closely to ensure an adequate fund balance at year-end (June 30, 2009).
A budget reduction of more than 4 percent in state revenues with continuing enrollment growth will certainly force deeper cuts, including potential program reductions, the use of more adjunct instructors and other professional staff to cover classes, a hiring freeze for all positions, possible closings of community instructional sites, and reductions in student support services. We have tried to avoid negatively impacting student access and program quality, but further reductions will likely affect students at some level. We’re very concerned about the next six months of Fiscal Year 2008-09, but we’re even more concerned about funding of programs in 2009-10.
These are difficult times, but community colleges, such as SFCC, are key to economic recovery of the entire state of Florida.