Gov. Mike Parson announced last week that there would be $209 million in additional expenditure restrictions.
The Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development in total will see a loss of $41 million in state aid, which includes a $6,836,790 loss for community colleges in the state.
Dr. Jon Bauer, president of East Central College, told The Missourian his thoughts on the state aid reductions and how this will affect the college in the immediate future.
“I appreciate the difficult position the state and the governor is in, in terms of making decisions with drastically reduced revenue and making budget decisions,” he said. “At the same time it seems whenever there is a difficult decision it’s higher education and education generally.”
Bauer noted that education has always taken the brunt of budget cuts.
“It is very discouraging when you’re working in public education at any level and you know at the moment there is difficulty with the state budget you are going to be first in line for those reductions,” he said.
To date the amount of funds withheld from ECC in fiscal year 2020 is $848,352, Bauer reported.
“That represents 15.7 percent of the appropriated allocation for East Central,” he said.
Bauer explained that ECC is looking at what is going to happen with the college’s budget the rest of its current fiscal year, which is through the end of June, and evaluating what the coming fiscal year will look like.
The college has already begun making adjustments, according to Bauer, who explained that the college is limiting its spending to things that are only essential.
“The spending has to be absolutely essential at this time,” he said. “It has to be pertinent to carry out our programs and services.”
With finishing out the year with a reduced amount in state aid, Bauer said he feels the college has taken the correct steps to offset the loss as well as it can.
“The more significant challenge for ECC is next year’s budget,” he said. “We know that at the beginning of the fiscal year there will be withholdings of some amount, but we don’t know yet what that is exactly going to be.”
Bauer added that he hopes the college will get more clarity, but at this time “everything is on the table” when making adjustments to operate under the college’s new budget and reduction in state aid.
“We are going to have to determine how to meet that challenge (of budget reductions),” Bhe said. “ECC will have to make sure its expenses line up with the revenue we have.”
The plan at this time is to have a budget developed for next year by the end of the month.
“There is a lot of work to do to make sure the budget is balanced, is responsible and still enables us to serve our students,” Bauer said.
Effects on Personnel
ECC will put a freeze on hiring for all open positions, according to Bauer.
“ECC will have to evaluate those positions on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “Our assumption is that the college will not be filling any open positions, unless there is an overwhelming, unavoidable need for that position.”
Current facility and staff were informed this week about the situation, according to Bauer, to make them aware that furloughs might be on the table.
“It will have to be determined if (furloughs) will help address this reduction,” he said. “That is something, frankly, I hate to have on the table.”
He explained that ECC is a service industry and a large part of its budget is associated with salary and benefits.
“When you have to adjust a budget at this magnitude it’s impossible to do that without some effect on the personnel side of your budget,” Bauer said. “ECC will evaluate that very responsibly, with the utmost care for our employees and balancing that with the recognition we have to adjust our budget.”
Bauer added that he wants to make sure whatever decisions are made regarding the budget or possible furloughs do not affect the quality of education or service for the students.
“ECC will get its budget in balance and will do it with the interest of our students in mind,” he said. “ECC needs to deliver what our students expect and that is quality.”