An Operating Budget for 2008-2009
Last night, the Board of Trustees approved our operating budget for the coming fiscal year which begins on July 1, 2008. In my prefacing remarks to the board, I referred to the proposed budget as “tight” and then, not really feeling that was an adequate description, I struggled for more appropriate words–they didn’t come.
We head into the new fiscal year with $1 million less than was approved in the budget last year. During the year, SFCC and other colleges and universities endured two budget reductions, one in the fall following a special session and the other in the spring following the first week of the regular legislative session.
Those of us who have been around for more than a few decades develop a certain philosophical outlook that allows us to see beyond the immediate pressures. Yes, our budget is “tight”–whatever that means–but we’ll be fine. Economies cycle. What goes down, must come back up again–eventually. In the meantime, we make the best of our circumstance and appreciate the glass that is actually much more than half full. And we focus on our mission–helping our students improve their lives through education.
I’m extremely proud of the faculty and staff of our college for the way they are dealing with this current budget valley. A couple of weeks ago during a staff meeting at which we had finalized our proposal for board consideration, we reviewed our budget processes over the past few years. We were particularly interested in learning from the experience but also in acknowledging our success in dealing with the crisis. We identified about a dozen factors that have allowed us to weather the storm.
- Funding of community colleges and of SFCC had been excellent in 2005 and 2006.
- Late in 2006, we could see the signs of an economic downturn, and then in March of 2007 we paid great attention to revenue forecasts and other information and immediately initiated cost-saving measures.
- During the years when funding was good, we made sure that we had a healthy fund balance and that we used non-recurring revenues from various grants for non-recurring expenditures only–avoiding continuing obligations as much as possible.
- During the good funding years, we aggressively pursued state grants to offset the start-up costs of new programs and program expansions such as in nursing and the radiography program.
- During the good funding years, we benefited from special equipment funding associated with new facilities being built on the campuses.
- We kept the open door open! With universities restricting admissions and more people seeking to upgrade their employability skills, it was vital to our communities that we welcome all students and facilitate their successful matriculation. The enrollment increase of more than 11 percent in 2007-2008 also brought additional revenues.
- The schedule was managed to optimize class sizes–maintaining quality–while ensuring that students could register for the classes they needed to graduate in a timely manner. An 11 percent increase in enrollment adds about two students per section (on average) without significant additional cost. We did have to add some additional sections where classes were already full.
- We froze certain vacant positions as they became vacant, and we delayed filling other vacancies when we could. We also eliminated vacant positions whenever possible through reorganizations and reassignment of duties to others.
- We made the obvious reductions in current expenses, materials, supplies, services, etc., while at the same time absorbing increasing costs of utilities.
- We reduced capital outlay expenses in the operating budget and sought other sources of funding for equipment and facilities improvements.
- We used conservative budgeting practices, underestimating revenues while realistically estimating expenditures.
- Everyone understood and everyone cooperated. It was a great team effort!
There are many stories behind each of these factors, as you expect. They’re interesting, but now we’ve got work to do–there are students to be served.