By Nash Kurilko
After several semesters of less-than-positive campus news, there is finally a development that everyone can be happy about. College of Marin’s new operating budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year stands at $47.6 million. That’s a 1.5 percent increase from the 2012-2013 budget of $46.9 million. The boost was achieved after the Board of Trustees set new guidelines designed to maximize existing sources of revenue and discover new avenues of moneymaking.
The chief purpose of these guidelines was to balance the budget, increase funding for accreditation, maintain investments in unfunded liability reserves, to close the structural deficit gap, and to maintain a reasonable fund balance, all while maintaining the core schedule of classes and student services that give COM its respectable reputation.
“The increase in the budget has been primarily attributable to the increase in local property taxes in Marin County and the successful passage of Prop 30 by the voters. Both of these items have helped COM to not incur any reductions in our labor force and we will not be asking for any employee concessions from our bargaining units in this adopted budget,” said Greg Nelson, interim vice president of finance and college operations. Hired this August, Nelson comes from San Jose City College, where he served as vice president of administrative services.
He added: “The state, through the student success act, is restoring some of the funding cuts to the categorical programs for COM. These include programs like EOPS, (Extended Opportunity Programs and Services,) and DSPS (Disabled Students Programs and Services). The level of restoration is still being worked out by state officials, but this will allow COM to provide more services to students in the coming year.”
The Board of Trustees worked to fund approximately $400,000 in new initiatives that emerged through a system called Program Review, which is a process involving the collection, analysis, and evaluation of quantitative and qualitative data about academic programs and student services. While simultaneously pursuing Program Review, the board also made sure to reduce expenses in acceptable areas by $1.2 million. By the time the 2012-2013 Adopted Budget was finished and presented to the trustees in August of 2012, the structural deficit had been reduced by $2.1 million—a $0.9 million percent drop.
COM President David Wain Coon agreed that the increase in county property taxes played a substansial role in inflating the college budget. “The most our property taxes can go up in a given year is 1.2 percent, meaning that the biggest increase we can get is 0.2 percent. That’s just based on how the county tax allocation works. So given that things [county property values] have been positive for the past couple years, we went ahead and budgeted that full 1.2 percent. A couple years back when things weren’t going too good, we weren’t getting the full 1.2 percent.”
The 2013-2014 budget includes: $505,000 in funding for essential items identified through Program Review, $130,000 in funding for comprehensive computer replacement, $400,000 in new Proposition 30 revenue, $885,000 in salary savings resulting from the Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan, $150,000 for initial restoration of the class schedule, up to $100,000 in matching funds from the state for instructional equipment, and up to $100,000 in matching funds from the state for Deferred Maintenance.
“You’ve been reading in the IJ and other local newspapers that the [county] property have gone up, sales have gone up, that’s where we’ll start seeing some of that supplemental income picking up. Another positive thing is the Prop 30 funds that we didn’t anticipate last year, we’ll get again this year. Last year we ended up with $501,000 dollars in Prop 30 funds. We expected them for this fiscal year, but not last year, so that was nice,” Coon said.
Perhaps a little less confident, Nelson said he wasn’t certain just yet whether or not the local property tax increases will continue to influence and inflate COM’s budget in the 2014-2015 fiscal year, but that he and his office will know more towards next spring when the tax revenue data comes in. COM is on a four-year plan to correct the structural deficit, so that the use of otherwise valuable reserve funds can decrease and budgetary items lost in previous years can be restored.
“The college is sound fiscally and has a good leadership team to move the college in the right direction,” he said.