President Serban speaks on May ballot propositions

Zac Estrada

The passage of two propositions on May 19 is crucial to keep courses and employment positions at City College, Superintendent-President Andreea Serban said.

Around 50 people attended the meeting at the Schott Center on April 22. The new Vice President of Continuing Education Ofelia Arellano joined Serban in laying out the bleak condition of the college’s financial predicament.

If the propositions, 1A and 1B pass, and the college’s enrollment continues to rise as expected, classes and jobs could be spared from cost cutting methods.

“When the economy faces a downturn, that’s when people need education the most,” Serban said. She added that the flood in enrollment requests has conflicted with the decrease in funds the college has been given from the State of California.

Enrollment for credit classes for the Fall 2008 semester was 19,544, a significant increase over the previous school year

But even though the college’s funding is related to how many students are enrolled, its 2008-2009 budget was cut nearly 5 percent from the previous year. Already, extensive steps have been taken to save money.

The college cut hourly support in the Spring 2009 semester by 70 percent, mostly by reducing grounds maintenance and hours of operation for student support services. Equipment upgrades were put on hold and, while no sections were eliminated, none were added to meet the increase in demand.

Empty staff positions have remained vacant, but Serban said that some positions will have to be filled out of necessity.

“We want to maintain employment for our current employees,” Serban said. “We’re proud to report that we’ve maintained this commitment. But it’s not easy.”

Serban pleaded for those in attendance to vote for both initiatives. Proposition 1A would extend the recent sales tax increase through at least 2012, instead of expiring in 2011. And 1B would alter funding rules under Proposition 98. Serban said the passage of 1B could result in the college receiving $14 million over a six-year period. And both initiatives must pass for the effects of either to be seen.

“We’re advising you on how to vote to ensure a bright future for SBCC,” she said to the attendees, “in order for the budget for 2009 to hold any value is if these props pass.”

Serban did not forget to mention the bright aspects of the college at the meeting. Enrollment has grown for off-campus courses, such as at the Wake Center and dual enrollment classes at Santa Barbara-area high schools. The college’s dual enrollment program is the largest in California for community colleges. And online classes now make up for 11 percent of the college’s enrollment.

Other ways to accommodate additional enrollments might include offering more classes at the Wake Center, and “hybrid” classes, which have both on-campus and online instruction.

The School of Media Arts building is set to start construction in the second half of 2010, and completed about 18 months later. About half of the $5 million in additional funds needed to complete the project has been raised.