Sat12202014

Schools

FHDA offers program with few cuts next year: Stability fund helps weather economic shortfalls

Photo Town Crier File Photo Foothill-De Anza Community College District officials say they have made fiscally prudent decisions that spare students the effects of drastic state budget cuts next academic year.

Foothill and De Anza college students won’t suffer the impact of state funding cutbacks next academic year, because district officials prepared for sizable reductions and are able to offset major cuts – for at least one year – with a stability fund.

After the state legislature adopted its budget last month, Foothill-De Anza Community College District officials had a better picture of what state cuts to expect, and the news was better than anticipated.

During its planning, the district developed a budget with 8.7 percent less funding (approximately $16.2 million) from the state, according to Kevin McElroy, vice chancellor of business services. After the state finalized the budget – following a change in enrollment projections – the district cuts total only 5.5 percent. The gap, which includes $2 million in anticipated expenditure increases, is now at $8.5 million.

Foreseeing a bleak few years due to the state’s economic crisis, district officials have tightened the financial belt to withstand severe state cuts.

“The district is handling it,” McElroy said. “These state budget cuts are not news to any of us. This district was very prudent in their planning and have been building up their reserves.”

Over the past three years, district officials have saved approximately $10.5 million in a stability fund. The district instituted a “hiring chill,” leaving positions unfilled after employees resigned due to attrition, and eliminated 85 full-time and 50 part-time positions.

In July 2010, employees agreed to health-benefit cost reductions that saved the district an additional $5.3 million and bolstered the stability fund.

McElroy said the district plans to use the stability fund during the 2011-2012 school year to preserve a quality experience for students.

“This will be our transition year,” he said. “We are going to maintain as much access as much as possible, even in the face of all these cuts.”

Tapping into the stability fund enables the colleges to offer approximately the same number of course sections and serve the same number of students, well over the total the state finances, according to McElroy.

“We are going to stay as close to last year as possible,” he said. “We know students are being turned away from the CSU and UC systems. We will use our stability money to help deal with that.”

Officials will plan for larger reductions in subsequent years without the stability-fund cushion.

“We hope we see a little brighter days in the 2012-2013 budget,” McElroy said. “If not, we will have our plans well in place.”

Although the final state budget softened the blow for the 2011-2012 school year, the district is not out of the woods yet. The state budget includes language that may translate into mid-year cuts totaling as much as $2 million.

For more information, visit business.fhda.edu/budget/budget_update.

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