The East Central College board of trustees approved a “challenging” budget this week which includes cuts in many areas.
The two-year college will operate on a $30 million budget this year, roughly $5 million less than the fiscal year 2018 budget.
In the expenditure budget, the general operating fund is approximately $17 million, with program and general fees of $1.3 million, debt retirement fund of $1.4 million, auxiliary services fund of $2.2 million, and grants, student federal grants and loans totaling $8.2 million.
“This year the budget is driven by the stabilization of the economy and the downturn in state tax revenues and the decline in credit hours,” the summary read. “However, scrutiny will continue throughout the fiscal year to ensure a balance between actual revenues and expenses.”
Vice President of Finance and Administration Phil Pena said the budget is especially difficult this year due to several factors, including falling enrollment numbers, higher utility costs, higher medical insurance costs, flat state aid and several others.
“This was a very, very tough year for us to come up with a comprehensive budget,” Pena said. “There are a lot of difficulties we’re facing. We had to really sharpen our pencils this year.”
ECC President Dr. Jon Bauer said the budget, while lean, will work for the coming years, but he stressed the importance of a different approach in the future.
“This has been one that was challenging to put together,” Bauer said. “It was exceedingly challenging. We’ve been able to pull it together into a spending plan that I believe is acceptable.”
The tight budget will see several cutbacks, one of which is a tentative plan for no salary increases throughout the college. The college also will evaluate several positions, put some on hold and eliminate a handful of jobs that have been vacant for an extended amount of time.
Bauer said he regrets not being able to reward the college’s employees, especially in such a trying year, but said that the situation will be monitored as revenue fluctuates.
Budget problems have been the theme of the past few years, stemming from state budget cuts.
ECC has responded to those cuts with several changes, including a focus on bolstering dual enrollment and a raise in tuition last year. However, the changes weren’t enough to fight off further cuts.
Now, to look for possible solutions on the revenue and expenditure side, Bauer said the college will form a committee made up of administrators, faculty, staff and board members to come up with solutions to the budget problem.
“This will be a year that we’ll have a comprehensive committee,” he said. “We’ll take a detailed look of revenue and expenses top to bottom, more than we usually do, starting this fall and over the next few years.”
Bauer said the budget needs new sets of eyes looking over it, eyes that he hopes will have new ideas on how to bring the college out of the red.