Under darkening clouds of economic uncertainty, the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District Governing Board battened down the hatches Tuesday, passing a $150.4 million budget that prepares the district to weather the storm, should Proposition 30 – the governor’s tax measure – fall short in the November election.
While mandated to approve its budget in September, the financial realities of the 2012-2013 budget year and the district’s growth for the future won’t be determined until after the fall election.
“Like the household budget planner who wisely decides not to count on that iffy pay raise for the coming year, this district is planning very conservatively,” said Chancellor Cindy L. Miles. “We’re prepared to serve our students. In the long run, that level of service will be determined by voters.”
A $5.6 million projected loss in state funds factored into the district’s 2012-2013 spending plan means funding for about 1,000 fewer students and 310 fewer class sections if Prop. 30 fails. Statewide, the tax measure’s defeat Nov. 6 will result in California’s 112 community colleges losing $338 million in funding and having to turn away 180,000 more students.
That’s when voters statewide will decide on Proposition 30 and Proposition 38, a competing tax measure financially backed by attorney Molly Munger that doesn’t include any funding for colleges and universities. The governor’s proposal, Prop. 30, would provide funding for all levels of education and other public needs by temporarily boosting levies on sales and individuals with annual earnings of $250,000 and up. Munger is proposing a wider income tax hike to raise money solely for K-12 schools and early childhood programs.
Community colleges are closely watching both initiatives because only the measure that passes with the greatest number of votes will take effect. Should that be Prop. 38, higher education would lose altogether. If Proposition 30 passes, the district will be able to serve 1,100 more full-time students by restoring the $5.6 million funding loss and receiving an additional $705,000.
East County voters will also be casting their ballots on Proposition V, the district’s $398 million bond measure to renovate and replace Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges’ aging facilities, technology and infrastructures. It will continue the progress of Prop. R, the district’s 2002 facilities bond measure, by adding new facilities to replace temporary buildings that have long outlived their usefulness, as well as structures too old to renovate.
Veterans support centers are also included in the plans for both colleges to accommodate the growing numbers of former service members using the post-911 G.I. Bill to attend college.
The cuts in this year’s budget come on top of four years of state funding cuts totaling more than $16.1 million, forcing the district to cut more than 1,600 classes since 2008-2009. The waitlist for class seats has grown to more than 12,500 this fall, 15 times higher than it was five years ago.
Bill Garrett, president of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District Governing Board, said he is hopeful that voters understand that given the staggering losses from the state’s anemic economy, revenue generators like Proposition 30 and Proposition V represent the most realistic approaches to restoring much-needed services to students.
“As a crucial factor to the economic strength of East County, restoring our colleges would benefit the region as a whole, providing the education and training for jobs, and expanding future opportunities for everyone,” Garrett said.
Because the college district receives 94 percent of its funding from the state, it is deeply affected by California’s budget crisis. Unlike K-12 schools that are funded based on the number of students enrolled, funding for community colleges is based on an enrollment cap set by the state.
Samantha Elliot, Grossmont College’s student trustee, said she appreciated that the district had prepared its budget in an effort to avoid midyear cuts.
“I am very grateful for a budget that prepares for the worst, but hopes for the best,” she said.