Friday, November 2, 2012

The Great Fiscal Squawk of 2012: now sans ambivalence

     In recent weeks, administration seems to have sent some mixed messages to the campus community. Here at Irvine Valley College, a college-wide forum was held in which no dire fiscal news was on the agenda, though references to substantial fiscal issues were made during Q & A. Meanwhile, at the college’s Strategic Planning Oversight & Budget Development Committee ("SPOBDC"), members were told that, unless something is done, for the first time, we foresee that expenses, which continue to rise, will outstrip revenue, which will continue to be flat.
     That squawk of alarm, amplified here at DtB, was met with skepticism by some long-time observers of the college’s finances. “Yeah, we’ve heard that before,” they said.
     In the end, we at DtB opted for agnosticism re the Great Fiscal Squawk of Fall 2012.
     But, today, the Chancellor has added his voice to the squawkage. In one of his regular pan-district communications, Chancellor Gary Portner writes:

THE ECONOMIC LANDSCAPE
     For four years now, California community college districts have experienced deficits in state apportionment totaling 16%. If Proposition 30 fails, they will immediately see an additional 7.5% reduction. … Our district is a basic aid district, funded through student enrollment fees and property taxes. We don’t receive general state apportionment, and are not subject to these deficits and drastic cuts. … Even though we have avoided these deep cuts, our district has experienced escalating costs, primarily in salaries and benefits, without proportionate offsets in stable revenue. We are now in a situation where projected long term expenditures exceed revenue projections.
     According to the 2013 Economic Forecast …, we can expect to see a meager 2% growth in gross domestic product over the next several years. While this rate may sustain the status quo, it doesn’t provide enough growth to get us out of this economic slump….
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR US
     We’ve been able to weather this long-term economic downturn by being fiscally conservative for over a decade, but if the economy takes several more years to recover, we can’t expect increased revenues to offset increased costs. … We are fortunate that this is happening to us at a slower rate than other districts.... We have time to stabilize our financial trend in a measured way that involves all constituencies and yields positive results. We need to implement a budget reduction of approximately 5% district-wide. I will be asking the presidents to work through their college processes to implement expenditure reductions at the colleges for next year and I will work with district services on this….

IDEAS FOR BUDGET REDUCTIONS
     While specifics about how to make reductions should be done through widespread involvement, input and agreement of the organization, here are a few ideas that can be implemented immediately:
• … Determine what expenses are truly necessary. Defer discretionary expenditures.
• … Each dollar saved this year will assist us next year.
• Use extreme caution in adding new, permanent positions that would increase overall staffing costs.…
• Travel expenses should be reduced to essential needs only.
• Expenditures for scheduled maintenance should be limited to critical needs only….
• Technology refresh plans may need to be deferred until the budget situation improves….
Chancellor Gary Poertner: doing his job
TURNING TO BASIC AID
     In this district, the first impulse has been to turn to basic aid funds for shortfalls. This expectation must stop. In the 1990s [under John Williams' dubious leadership; see at end of post], this practice caused a fiscal crisis and our district was on the state financial watch list with operations being monitored monthly by the state chancellor’s office. I will strongly resist using basic aid money to supplement ongoing operations because this practice would ultimately create a larger and more urgent crisis later. We are conservative by relying on basic aid funds for our capital construction needs and critical one-time expenditures.

LET’S WORK TOGETHER
     Thank you for joining with me to address this issue while the choices are less difficult. It is my responsibility to guard the overall financial health of this district. Your assistance and cooperation are needed and appreciated. Together, we can keep our district fiscally sound and organizationally strong.

QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS
     I welcome your feedback and questions….

     Well, it looks like Gary is doing his job.
     You can read his entire letter here.

* * *
     ...South Orange County Community College trustees attempted to intimidate school employees and investigators during a routine look at the district’s shaky finances, according to letters and interviews with district officials. State auditors said they left with a firsthand glimpse of what critics say is an atmosphere of intimidation and harassment that has dominated the two-campus district for the past 18 months. Letters…show that two of the district’s seven trustees [John Williams and Dorothy Fortune] took what the state chancellor’s office calls an “unprecedented” series of actions to impede its investigation…“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Patrick Lenz, the state’s vice chancellor of fiscal services, of the April 6 visit. “We were faced with all sorts of intimidation tactics throughout the day”… Throughout the eight-hour audit, Fortune paced outside the glass door. Sometimes she peered through the glass….
Orange County Register, June 13, 1998


Cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good,
Now, cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good,
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move.

6 comments:

  1. We can't keep giving it away for free. Something's got to give. Perhaps raising tuition to $100 per unit. That way, at least the students will take their studies more seriously.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Got a lot of faith in our district, Gary, Debra, Tere doing good job!

    ReplyDelete
  3. For those with faith in this district's leadership (which I have), we need to support the district and the Board--please attend the two District/College Wide Forums. One is at IVC, the other at Saddleback. They are this coming week--SPECIAL MEETING:

    College-wide Forums
    Thursday, November 7
    12:30-2 p.m. IVC
    3-4:30 p.m. SC

    We all need to attend--to find out information about budgetary concerns, about impact of the Task Force Recommendations on the colleges, and what ever else folks want to ask. And it's an indication of support for our district during fiscally difficult times.

    And this is a faculty member writing this.

    ReplyDelete
  4. For those with faith in this district's leadership (which I have), we need to support the district and the Board--please attend the two District/College Wide Forums. One is at IVC, the other at Saddleback. They are this coming week--SPECIAL MEETING:

    College-wide Forums
    Thursday, November 7
    12:30-2 p.m. IVC
    3-4:30 p.m. SC

    We all need to attend--to find out information about budgetary concerns, about impact of the Task Force Recommendations on the colleges, and what ever else folks want to ask. And it's an indication of support for our district during fiscally difficult times.

    And this is a faculty member writing this.

    Oophs: a problem--Thursday is the 8th but I believe the forums on Wed, the 7th.

    Roy, please check this out.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Gee, interesting how the District realized it had to tighten its belt AFTER many of the Administrators and Managers were granted GIANT increases. Raise tuition? Gimme a break...

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  6. Poertner's latest doom-and-gloom story is premised completely on the pretense that the SOCCCD is not a basic aid district. I.e., we pretend we are on state apportionment for bookkeeping purposes, crying poor mouth while quietly stashing away the basic aid windfall year after year in huge reserves and ambitious building projects. While he characterizes this as a "wise" system, how do these new buildings serve students trying to get into classes when we refuse to hire the faculty to teach in them?

    ReplyDelete

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