When Gov. Gray Davis approved the 2001-2002 state budget last week with a $2.6 billion reserve, he also approved taking an unexpected total of $2,763,267 away from the Foothill-De Anza Community College District.
According to the Community College League of California, $1,463,906 was removed from the district's maintenance budget and $1,299,361 from the equipment budget.
"I think we are all frankly shocked and disappointed," said Leo Chavez, chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District. "He blue-penciled more than $40 million at the community college level. Why did the governor pick on us, in particular in areas of such critical importance?"
Chavez thinks the community colleges are being asked to contribute more than their fair share of cuts compared to the larger University of California and California State University systems.
In order to secure the reserve, line-item vetoes totaling $550 million had to be cut from the total state budget, said Sandy Harrison, spokesman for the California Department of Finance. "In case of the maintenance and equipment budgets for the community colleges, that was a big item," Harrison said. "The equivalent amount of money had already been cut from the UC and CSU budgets in January. The governor wanted to be consistent and intended it to be year-by-year funding."
With these cuts, items like computers, software and other instructional equipment will not be replaced, repaired or updated as often, if at all, Chavez said. The purchase of new library books will be delayed along with maintenance of buildings.
"In the future, if the revenue picture looks brighter, we will look to restoring things as needed," Harrison said. "We looked at it (the budget cuts) as necessary to get the reserve we felt we needed."
It seems the community colleges would beg to differ on the point of necessity.
"We are the largest community college district in the state," Chavez said. "We proportionately receive more money per full-time student. We have about 34,000 full-time students in our district, so the money has to spread to more students," Chavez said.
Not only does the California community college system have the largest student population compared with the UC and CSU systems, but it also receives the lowest amount of funding from the state, according to Chavez.
"The UC system receives in the neighborhood of $20,000 per student, the CSU system about $14,000 per student and we (the community colleges) receive $6,000 per student," Chavez said.
It seems the financial woes of the California Community College system could get worse before it gets better, Chavez said.
"We have been warned that next year is going to be more difficult," he said. "Next year they have projected a $4 billion deficit.
For more information, logon to: www.dof.ca.gov.