Officials at some Ventura and Los Angeles County community colleges are defining their financial situation as more positive than in years past, and the colleges are slowly recovering from what administrators call “deep cuts” in their budgets made by former Gov. Gray Davis.
A large amount of money would be coming from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed 2005-06 budget for higher education, which allocated $83 million to the 108 community colleges across the state.
Before the money is available to the schools, the California Legislature must approve the entire state budget, which is scheduled to be done in July.
In the meantime, local community colleges like L.A. Valley College have already set their budgets for the following year.
“This year, the budget is relatively level,” said L.A. Valley College President Dr. Tyree Wieder. “But during my tenure, the budget has always had problems.”
Although the budget for this year seems to be more positive than in previous years under Davis, larger community college districts like the Los Angeles Community College District have larger budgets than smaller districts, such as the Ventura County Community College District.
“The biggest challenge is the (Board of Equalization),” said Ray Diguilio, vice president of business resources at Moorpark College in Ventura County. “This is where Ventura County is funded less per student than L.A. County.”
The board, which administers the collection of fees that fund state programs, attempts to remedy the current per student funding inequalities between districts. The board’s mission is contrary to the community colleges system-wide budget request, and is something that the governor’s higher education budget does not provide additional funding for, Diguilio said.
“The budget falls short and equalization attempts to rebalance it,” Diguilio said. “There needs to be some level of modification, because if structural changes are not implemented, we will be where we were a few years ago (under) Davis.”
Officials in the LACCD said this is not necessarily the case, because larger districts have more costs to work with.
“One of the negative aspects of being in a larger district is there is higher overhead costs,” Wieder said. “But it is also a positive thing, because we are able to work together with the nine district offices and support our strengths.”
Although officials in the LACCD and VCCD do not agree on how the budget is allocated in terms of district size, the officials said they agreed that their budgets are in a much better place that they were under Davis.
“Davis cut the budget tremendously,” said Tom Jacobsmeyer, vice president of administration at L.A. Valley College. “We could not fund a lot of classes (back then), and were not able to offer pay increases (to faculty and staff).”
“We are in better shape now,” he said.
Wieder said Davis issued mid-year cuts, and L.A. Valley College had to reduce their budget by $2 million, which Wieder said forced the administration to cut back its summer session and did not allow the college to have the necessary supplies it needed to function. Wieder said although the college did not have to fire any full-time faculty, the college still had to rid of many other things during the budget crunch.
“We offered the students free parking this session,” Wieder said. “Hopefully, (that) will entice students to come so we can make the money for our 3 percent growth basis.”
L.A. Valley College looks to meet at least a 3 percent enrollment growth each year in order to receive additional expected funding from the state.