For the past two years Santa Monica College (SMC) has been able to maintain most of its services, class offerings, and employee benefits despite the on-going state budget crisis. However, a March 3 e-mail from the college’s superintendent and president, Chui Tsang, states that SMC will be facing “the most severe budget crisis this college has faced since the 1978 passage of Proposition 13” in its 2011-2012 fiscal year.
College concerns center around Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed budget which calls for a $400 million reduction in the community college’s funding and the need for a majority voter approval of tax extensions if the legislature chooses to place a ballot measure before them this June. Even if the voters approve the tax extensions, SMC will still faces a $5.6 million operating deficit.
The e-mail states that in “the worst case scenario – in which there would be no tax extensions and Proposition 98 would be suspended” there would be a $15.3 million state cut and a potential deficit of more than $20 million. This number comes from adding SMC’s $5.6 million operating deficit to the $15.3 million state cut.
A town hall meeting is scheduled to discuss the budget crisis tonight (Wednesday, March 23) at 3 p.m. in Humanities and Social Science Lecture Hall 165.
Tsang’s e-mail states that the cuts will be two-fold and will include both the elimination of course sections and cuts to salaries and benefits. Salaries and benefits make 88 percent of the college’s operating budget. He also noted the college does not “expect the situation to improve in 2012-13 or 2013-14.”
Thus far, SMC has implemented a hiring freeze on all but essential personnel, has made a change in health coverage for managers for this fiscal year, and has been able to charge more for nonresident tuition. In addition, on March 1 the SMC Board of Trustees adopted two objectives and fifteen principles to guide the college in how to make the necessary budget cuts over the next few months. Tsang noted that the principle to “avoid layoffs of permanent employees. Seek salary freezes, furloughs, salary reductions, and other temporary or ongoing adjustments … provides a good sense of the direction the college is heading over the next few months.”
California was supporting all of SMC’s Emeritus’ classes through its non-credit funding program, but the state decided to not fund Emeritus’ health and conditioning classes for this fiscal year. The basis for the decision was that Title 5 of California’s Code of Regulations, which governs higher education in California, specifies “No state aid or apportionment may be claimed on account of the attendance of students in non-credit classes in dancing or recreational physical education.” These classes were misclassified under the Title 5 classification 30 years ago when the college began. SMC’s Board of Trustees decided to fund these health and conditioning classes with money from the college’s reserve fund for this fiscal year.
Ron Furuyama, the associate dean of SMC’s Emeritus College, said that his college has been rewriting the curriculum for all of the classes the California Community College Chancellor’s Office did not fund this year. They are also making sure all the rewritten curriculums “meet the regulations and requirements” specified by the chancellor’s office. So far, funding for four classes has been approved at the state level.
The Mirror also spoke with Mitra Moassessi, the president of the SMC faculty association. She emphasized that at this time there are “just assumptions – none of them are real. We don’t know what will happen.” She also mentioned that items such as salary and benefits are “all items that are negotiable.” Therefore, “we will not agree to any cut because at this point there are only assumptions.” Her association is currently in the process of negotiating a three-year contract with the college for 2010-2013 and is “still functioning under their previous contract.”
Moassessi also noted that her association has presented a list of 20-30 items to the college’s budget committee that could be cut without affecting the students’ education or the college’s employees’ salaries or benefits. Cuts suggested include the areas of advertising, marketing, and legal fees.
“If the college is cutting classes, why advertise if don’t have enough classes?” Moassessi rhetorically asked as a way to explain her organization’s suggestion to make cuts in advertising and marketing.