Budget discussions and program discontinuance/reduction possibilities

On Tuesday, August 28, the Program Effectiveness and Planning Committee to review the results of its special Spring process, which was designed to aid PBC (Planning and Budget Council) in addressing budget issues for upcoming years.  In particular, both committees are discussing and concerned with fiscal year ’13 (we’re in fiscal year ’12).

The Mayans had problems living within their means, too. I can relate to the look on this guy’s face.

Despite some hastily constructed procedures that ended up drawing criticism from both committee members and non-members, PEPC was able to address many of the criticisms at its meeting and to put forth its sense of our degree- and certificate-granting programs.  Remember, PEPC doesn’t review every program that appears in our line by line budget, it only reviews a subset of them.  One program, Engineering Tech, was designated for possible program discontinuance.  That program agrees with the assessment, it has outlived its usefulness.  We are grateful when programs honestly reduce themselves for good reasons.  Truthfully, though, there’s very little at Oxnard College that isn’t outstanding, absolutely necessary or both.  Indeed, just for starters, I can think of a whole lot of programs we should have and don’t – and can’t have, right now, because there are no funds.  The PEPC data, in its entirety has been put up on Sharepoint.  The actual reports are in the folder marked 2011-12, and the table of members’ responses to those reports is in the folder marked 2012-13.  

What PEPC did is come up with a 25 point rubric for all programs (that’s the main thing to look at – there’s a separate, accreditation-driven 11 point rubric for CTE programs which is also included on the above spreadsheet).  Each member of the committee scored individually (something we aren’t going to do again, I don’t believe).  So you can see which programs scored the highest and the lowest by going to the 2012-13 PEPC folder on sharepoint and opening the PEPRaverages spreadsheet.  This is the same data that was sent to PBC.

On Wednesday, August 29, PBC met to begin deliberations regarding the potential budget impacts on our school if Prop 30 does not pass.  It has to pass!  But if it doesn’t, we’re in a world of pain at Oxnard College – and everywhere else in the state.

Vice President Mike Bush shared program by program cost data for instructional programs, and will be sending the complete Excel workbook (with an amazing amount of detail) to all committee members – and to anyone else who requests it.  We are requested, by Dr. Durán, to come up with a plan for $1,600,000 in budget cuts from OC by Sept. 30, 2012, in keeping with the Board’s intention to have the cuts finalized (if needed) by January.  If Prop 30 passes, the plan that PBC is about to make will simply be put aside (although clearly, it could be used to inform any other needed cuts, so the work is extremely important).

PBC agreed that a central factor in cuts has to be cost per student (per FTES) per program and VP Mike has agreed to provide that data to the committee in the next couple of days.

PBC in no way agreed to or intends to cut or reduce programs simply because of costs per student, but there was general agreement that that’s a place to start.  Many other factors will be considered and ultimately reflected in the minutes and reported back to Senate (and blogged about here, where I can go on at length – as you can see).

What are PBC’s various options?  It can recommend elimination of a program for purely budgetary considerations and may have to.  This would be without reference to PEPC data at all and could include some strong programs, simply because they are expensive.  That’s where the budget is at.

PBC can also recommend reductions in programs, as opposed to eliminations.

PBC can also recommend which programs should be restored if funds are found.

In other words, PBC is engaging in shaping the future of OC in ways that we saw coming last year, and may or may not come to pass this year (all depends on the will of the people of California).

Last year, both PBC and PEPC struggled to create processes designed to downsize a college, and it was not easy.  Over the summer, I think all the individuals involved gave the processes a lot of thought.  We have a lot of returning committee members, and some new ones.  Together, people really attended to the task of improving the processes.  VP Mike provided excellent data without making people’s heads spin, and more data was requested and will be provided, including data on total cost of ownership, separate revenue streams, and current cost data (and budget targets for each program for 2012-13).

Not all the cuts will come from instruction.  The other areas are:  co-curricular programs, administrative costs and the student services area.  While in theory, “everything is on the table,” there are programs that are mandated by law (they’re not on the table).  I will also admit to having a personal bias, if you will, regarding further cuts to classified people.  We can’t cut any more classified.  I think a lot of people agree with me (so far, no one I’ve talked to has disagreed with me, and I’ve talked to a lot of people).

Whether or not Prop 30 passes, we still have to balance our budget in the usual ways, and it is a smaller budget for next year, by about $880,000.  We have to meet increased costs within that smaller budget, so there will be some cuts/readjustments in any case.  District-wide, Administrative Services is looking at such issues as:  no local registrar for any campus, only asst. registrars with one registrar for the whole district; closing bookstores; reorganization of the work week; reorganization of management.  Locally, on campus, we are looking at every cost (and I should say that VP Mike Bush has a very keen eye for these things), including paint.   Unfortunately, some funds are designated for physical upkeep and can’t be used in any other way – come to some of these budget meetings for the fun of figuring out those kinds of things.

Lastly, I want to acknowledge and thank Vice Chancellor Sue Johnson.  We were extremely lucky to have her as co-chair of PBC last Spring, and she graciously showed up at our most recent meeting to transition us to the new year.  She is a veritable fount of budget (and political) knowledge, her job is to watch the State of California like a hawk and attempt to understand its vicissitudes, which frankly are chaotic these days and sometimes border on incomprehensible (I want to use the vernacular and just say the budget issues are crazy).   She also spent a lot of time with me, schooling me on the specific areas of the budget that impact OC the most (like how the allocation model works, the importance of FTES, the complete failure of making cuts completely proportional at this point in time and so much more).   She has responded to every concern or question I’ve had – and if our Senate has more concerns or questions, she will continue to respond.

The mental image that comes to me when I think about Sue Johnson trying to work with state and local economics and politics (and everything else she has to do). William Saturno is the photographer; National Geographic dot com, which holds the copyright to this image.

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