Saturday, March 24 , 2018, 9:40 am | Fair 54º


Len Jarrott: The Importance of SBCC’s Reserves

Unlike other districts, the college can maintain its offerings and services thanks to responsible fiscal management

A recent article in a Santa Barbara newspaper quoted California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott as saying, “The 112-campus system did not receive a $116 million payment in July or a $277 million payment this month. Campuses are dipping into savings or borrowing money to pay employee salaries and other expenses, and furthered delays could lead some colleges to miss payroll next month.”

It’s important to consider the ramifications of this startling news in greater detail. Consider the plight of some of SBCC’s sister schools on the Central Coast that either have had to drop classes or full terms, layoff or furlough employees, or borrow money to keep programs going.

On Feb. 3, KSBY television news stated, “Cuesta College cuts could flood Hancock College this summer after Cuesta College announced it’s eliminating most of its summer 2010 courses. Cuesta says it had to cut the classes due to a lack of funding. Many of those students may look to attend Hancock College instead. That would create more competition for fewer summer openings. Hancock College’s budget deficit is already in the millions.”

On April 13, the Ventura County Star reported: “The board that oversees Moorpark, Oxnard and Ventura colleges eliminated or reduced 33 jobs. … The district is facing a $6.5 million shortfall in the next fiscal year, and the layoffs are part of a series of cost-cutting steps, said Vice Chancellor Sue Johnson. ... The district already has cut one summer session, eliminated 41 jobs and laid off at least 91 part-time faculty.”

This financial disaster is, unfortunately, endemic to the entire state — not just to the community colleges on the Central Coast. At least 20 of the 72 California Community Colleges districts are in serious financial trouble, which means they’re laying off personnel, eliminating entire summer sessions and cutting significantly their other terms, and radically curtailing their offerings of Continuing Education classes — if they had them to begin with.

Consider the City College of San Francisco, the largest community college in California, which cut almost all of its summer 2010 session, both credit and adult education. The San Francisco Chronicle stated in a Feb. 3 article: “Thousands of students who expected to make up missed courses or simply move their education forward will have to put those plans on hold this year because City College of San Francisco is canceling its popular summer session. ... College trustees axed the $4 million summer school program to help close a budget gap expected to top $12 million. All but some state-mandated vocational classes will vanish, leaving more than 2,000 City College students wondering what to do this summer. ... Community Colleges lost 8 percent of their budget this year, or $520 million, the college office reported.”

Residents living in the SBCC district have been blessed. We have had the benefit of excellent past and current superintendent/presidents — Dr. Peter MacDougall, John Romo and Dr. Andreea Serban — and a stable, experienced and effective board of trustees, who have all had the wisdom of knowing the importance of saving for a “rainy day.”

The responsible and successful fiscal management of our district’s funds over many years and the creation of a reserve fund have put SBCC in a position of continuing with excellent credit and Adult Education programs while minimizing the loss of classes and avoiding losing valuable, regular personnel. With two months of state payments to the community college system already delayed and with the almost certain possibility that one of the largest payments of the year — nearly $450 million due on Sept. 28 — delayed, too, let us all be thankful that the administrations of the past and the present and the current board of trustees have practiced sound financial management of our college district’s funds.

SBCC is one of the most fiscally sound community colleges in the state. This makes it possible for SBCC to continue to offer many more courses and enroll many more students — credit and noncredit — than the state is supporting, for the benefit of the local community and its residents.

If you have further questions, look at pages 6 through 9 of the fall 2010 Adult Ed schedule of classes, available at many newspaper stands, at the Schott and Wake Centers and online. Issues such as changing state priorities, class status for the fall term, whether to charge tuition and how to obtain scholarships for fee-based classes are all discussed.

— Len Jarrott is a former trustee for SBCC, has been an Adult Ed instructor since 1979, and is a former president of the Citizens Advisory Council for Adult Ed. He is also the longest sitting board member of the Foundation for SBCC, having been on that board since 1982.

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