First published in the Aug. 20 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
Glendale Community College is poised to adopt a $115.9 million budget for the current fiscal year, a plan that calls for bridging the $833,426 deficit using cash reserves and bolstering that reserve with a state grant.
After being introduced at Tuesday’s meeting, the plan is slated for formal adoption at the GCC Board of Trustees’ meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 13, ahead of the Sept. 15 deadline. Moving forward, GCC administrators said they’re aiming to develop budgets that stand more on their own and won’t need to rely on the crutch of one-time funding to close gaps between revenues and expenditures.
To that end, Ryan Cornner, the college’s new president and superintendent, said he plans on engaging heavily with the Glendale College Guild, the California State Employees Association and the GCC Academic Senate to identify cost-saving and consolidating strategy for future years.
“We all are committed to finding cost-reducing strategies so we can bring us into alignment and make sure we have a budget that’s able to withstand a year where we don’t have one-time funding,” Cornner said during discussion on Tuesday. “We think this will be something that will particularly target our contracts and we are very excited to be working together to make sure we have a budget that really brings that into consideration and allows us to use that one-time money to support until we make that transition.”
As is typical, labor makes up the bulk of expenditures, with $99.18 million earmarked for salaries and benefits. This includes around $850,000 in pay raises according to the salary schedule and a $1.2 million bump in benefits and workers’ compensation.
“The benefits and contracts are our primary drivers when it comes to cost increases,” Cornner said.
Additionally, the state has upped liability payments toward retirement pensions to around $12 million, after sharply increasing the CalPERS contribution by $594,000 and the CalSTRS contribution by $998,000.
“We have not seen such a rate increase from CalSTRS or CalPERS over the past five years, so this is a major change for those rates,” Amir Nour, the interim vice president of administrative services, told the board of trustees.
Revenues include $107.3 million in base apportionment from the state, which is based on full-time student enrollment, the level of support needed for those students and achievement. The state is notably continuing its so-called hold harmless policy, in that it isn’t reducing funding for community colleges for drops in enrollment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There also is a 6.56% cost of living adjustment this year, or COLA, representing $6.4 million for GCC. Administrators stressed the need for GCC to find ways of bolstering its full-time enrolled students, or FTES, to help stabilize future revenue streams.
“With COLA being traditionally the only new ongoing revenue we receive, the college needs to put all of its resources to trying to increase the FTES so we can bring additional funds to the campus,” Nour said. “COLA itself will not cover all the inflationary costs we are going to have for the next [several] years.”
Another noteworthy bit of revenue comes from the college’s agreement with Blue Shield, which issues a rebate annually based on costs associated with insuring GCC employees. It returned $1.4 million to GCC this year, an increase by $600,000 from the prior year.
Cornner added that GCC is benefitting this year from an approximately $7.5 million block grant from the state meant for COVID-19 relief, part of $650 billion that Sacramento set aside for the state’s community colleges this year. The grant comes with restricted uses, including engagement with new students, reengagement with students who failed a course or dropped out, professional development and IT infrastructure, and, potentially, the discharge of some student debt.
Using some of this funding, GCC plans to pad its cash reserves by the end of the year so that the college is able to attain its required 6% reserve amount of around $6.44 million.
Cornner, who took the reins in July and comes from Los Angeles Community College District administration, emphasized that he won’t accept that approach as the status quo.
“We cannot count on one-time money every single year,” he said. “These come through different benefits. This year, it was COVID. In previous years, it may have been state mandates. What we really need to consider as we move forward into our budgets is making sure that our ongoing expenditures are no more than our ongoing revenues.”