WSCC trustees trim budget

Washington State Community College’s Board of Trustees approved a revision to the 2013-14 budget Monday after being informed enrollment for the fall semester fell short of projections.

During the board meeting Monday afternoon in the college’s community room, Chief Financial Officer Jess Raines presented the board with an amended budget that cut revenue by $771,000 and expenses by $471,250. The difference will be made up as needed by $300,000 in reserves the board approved spending last year but had hoped to avoid using.

Raines said the cuts will be covered by attrition and a reduction in the adjunct faculty overload based on the lower enrollment numbers.

Amanda Herb, chief enrollment management officer, presented the board with figures showing the overall head count for the current fall semester is 1,698, just 91 percent of the fall 2012 enrollment. The college’s budget was crafted with an anticipated 5 percent decline in enrollment, but the most recent numbers still trail that amount by 73 students and nearly 1,200 credit hours.

Although the numbers were not what he’d hoped for, college President Bradley Ebersole said they were not out of line with what other Ohio community colleges are seeing.

“We’re very much in line with everybody else, if not a little better,” he said.

Washington State saw a decline in enrollment last year, which was attributed to the state-mandated transition from quarters to semesters, changes to federal financial aid rules and an improving economy leading some people to re-enter the workforce rather than the classroom. The college enacted mandatory furloughs and cut a couple of executive-level positions to head off a projected $1.47 million shortfall.

Raines noted the college’s expenses are down about 14 percent compared to the same time last year, compared to income, which is down about 11 percent.

“Trimming those expenses faster than the revenue is declining is a positive,” he said.

Enrollment also motivated an administration recommendation to start the spring 2015 semester a week later than the spring 2014 session. The board approved it

8-1, with Trustee Ken Schilling opposed.

“Do you really feel that’s necessary?” he said. “Because we’re eliminating a week for our students to work in the summer.”

Ebersole said the start of the semester was slated for Jan. 20, 2015, to allow two full weeks between the end of the Christmas/New Year’s break and the start of classes to get more students enrolled. There are seven business days between those dates this school year.

The extra time could be especially important if enrollment numbers are low heading into the spring semester, Ebersole said.

“I’d feel comfortable having at least two weeks to bring in as many students as possible,” Ebersole said.

Also Monday, the board voted 6-1, with Schilling and Dan Pennock abstaining, to give employees Dec. 23 as a holiday, since the rest of the week is part of the holiday break.

Trustee John Lehman cast the dissenting vote, questioning the expense of giving about 130 employees a paid holiday. That number was not immediately available Monday.

“This group did the furlough last year, and they’ve worked very hard,” Ebersole said. “So this is a good will gesture.”