Trustees struggle to approve budget amongst mass funding cuts

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Trustees struggle to approve budget amongst mass funding cuts

Serena Guentz, News Editor

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As City College faces budget cuts from the state, the Board of Trustees clashed over approving the 2019-2020 proposed budget at its meeting Thursday.

The budget presented during the meeting revealed where money would be allocated and what expenses would be reduced. 

Due to the newly implemented Student-Centered Funding Formula, the estimated state revenues would be reduced by about $1.5 million. This revenue decrease paired with a total deficit of over $3.2 million made some trustees uneasy approving the budget as it stood.

“This is not something I want to hand to a new superintendent-president unsolved,” Trustee Marsha Croninger said.

Since the state’s deadline to approve a new budget is Sept. 15, Croninger made a motion to approve the budget with the requirement that the board work to reduce the structural deficit to zero by Dec. 12. 

Superintendent-President Dr. Helen Benjamin and other members of the board said a balanced budget could not be achieved by December.

Trustee Jonathan Abboud proposed adding an amendment to the motion that the board works to balance the budget without the specified deadline.

“I think handing the next superintendent a gutted institution is way worse than handing them this deficit,” Abboud said. “We need to close the deficit… but cutting everything by Dec. 12 is probably the most fiscally irresponsible thing I’ve ever heard of at this college.”

Vice President Peter Haslund discussed the need for a balanced budget but felt “uncomfortable setting the target date after the superintendent said [they] can’t do it.”

Trustees Craig Neilsen and Veronica Gallardo agreed with Croninger, stressing the need for a specified date to achieve a balanced budget.

“What’s so disturbing is that I don’t see a definite plan of what we’re going to cut,” Neilsen said. “We’ve got young people trying to build a career, people trying to improve their lives. We’re chartered to be here as a resource. We’re here for a reason, not to make money for ourselves.”

The amendment Abboud proposed was added to the motion and the motion ultimately passed with a vote of 4-3, thus approving the budget. Trustees Croninger, Gallardo and Neilsen voted against passing the motion.

“It seems like we are unanimous on the notion that we must achieve a balanced budget,” Haslund said. “We may be concerned about having a date certain by which that happens but I don’t think there’s any doubt as to our resolve in the long run.”

The board later discussed the possibility of establishing a fiscal committee to work on budget and fiscal matters, but after disagreeing on when this committee would be necessary, they decided on discussing the matter further at a future meeting. 

The board will reconvene at its special meeting on Sept. 17 to discuss the results of the equity, diversity and inclusion survey.

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