Board action ensures state budget impasse won’t impact students

student on campus photo

A person walks to the FOSS (Faculty Offices and Student Services) building on Thursday, June 25, 2105.

Two measures approved by the Shoreline Community College Board of Trustees ensure that college operations will continue as a midnight, June 30 deadline to adopt a state budget bears down on state lawmakers.

At their regular meeting on June 24, the board first approved a budget as proposed by President Cheryl Roberts and staff for the fiscal year 2015-16 which starts on July 1. That financial plan includes an operating budget of $41.6 million. The total budget, excluding the capital projected capital expenditures, is $54.9 million.

But, that proposed budget can only be used if lawmakers take action in time.

A second action by the trustees ensures the college will stay open and continue to serve students even if the Legislature fails to meet the state-budget deadline.

The board approved a resolution that allows the college to “proceed with normal operations of the College” using available funds. This “continuing authority” resolution would be in place until the Legislature takes action and a new 2015-16 proposal could be brought to Shoreline’s trustees. That process would need to include time for the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and then Shoreline officials to review and analyze the legislative action.

Before approving the measure, the board accepted an amendment by Trustee Phil Barrett to put the continuing-authority item on every upcoming agenda for review and renewal. Barrett said he’s worried that not only will the Legislature miss the June 30 deadline, the impasse could drag on for months.

“Whatever happens, we are going forward with summer term,” Roberts said. “To not do so is unfair to students. However, we are asking our managers to hold off on major purchases.”

In the absence of an approved state budget, there would be no state funding allocation to the college. About 45 percent of Shoreline’s operating budget comes through that allocation. The rest of the college’s money comes from a combination of tuition, grant and contracts, which along with reserves, would be used to continue operations.

If the Legislature does pass a budget by June 30, Shoreline’s plan approved by the trustees would immediately take effect.

In a study session presentation to the board members prior to approval, Executive Director of Budget and Capital Dawn Vinberg outlined the proposed 2015-16 budget that was adopted later in the regular session.

“You folks are doing a great job,” Barrett said. “I very much appreciate the work that is being done.”

Two other budget-related items were separately approved by the trustees.

First were three proposed fee changes and a tuition waiver for active duty military personnel. The way the federal Department of Defense defines tuition for its assistance programs differs from that used by Washington colleges. The result is a difference that may waived the colleges, but must be approved by the board of trustees. At Shoreline, 10-15 students qualify for the waiver, totaling about $10,000 a year.

Fee changes were approved for the Parent-Child Center on campus and course fees for some computer science, engineering and clean technology classes. Also, the former graduation fee was redefined as the student completion fee and changed from a one-time $20 charge to a $0.50 per credit fee.

The second item was the Student Services and Activities (SS&A) budget. The fee, administered by student government, is the primary source of funding for many student programs and clubs, including athletic teams. The proposed budget included a fee increase of $0.80 per credit for the first 10 credits and $1.20 per credit for credits 11-18.

During the open-comment period of the regular meeting, a number of students spoke about the SS&A budget. While most were in support of the fee increase, they spoke against what they felt was a lack of transparency in the budget-setting process. During the regular session, the trustees approved the budget and the included fee increase on a 3-2 vote.

The board also took care of some personnel items, first approving President Cheryl Roberts’ contract for the coming year. They then elected Trustee Catherine D’Ambrosio as Chair and Trustee Barrett as Vice-Chair for the coming year starting July 1.

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