Future of college depends on ballot measures passing in March

Barbie O'Dowd

College officials are keeping their fingers crossed hoping that three upcoming propositions on the California Primary Election ballot will pass.

The college’s budget depends on the passage of these measures, which include Proposition 55, an education bond measure that would allow only for the planning of the new SOMA hi-tech center; Proposition 57, the Economic Recovery Bond Act; and Proposition 58, the California Balanced Budget Act, all of which require a great deal of voter confidence in how the money will be spent.

“If the measures don’t pass, we don’t have the cash to pay the bills,” said Joe Sullivan, vice president of business services.

Included in the propositions to assist the school’s budget crisis is a proposal by the governor to have UCSB students attend City College for the first two years of their general education in exchange for certain incentives for students like using UCSB facilities. Other state-level proposals include raising tuition fees and the possibility of charging up to $50 a unit for students who already hold a bachelor’s degree.

“The concept of open access education as far as the Master Plan is to include affordability for lower-income students,” said John Romo, president of City College.

“The good news is that there will be no mid-year program cuts,” said Sullivan, adding that this doesn’t mean there won’t be any fourth-quarter cuts, especially if the budget measures don’t pass.

City College is one of the few campuses that didn’t have layoffs this year; but if the governor’s budget implies cuts to the system, the college has reserves that are strong enough to last through the year, said Sullivan.

Though City College is not facing a crisis, its financial stability may soon be at risk.

“If Propositions 57 and 58 don’t pass, the whole thing goes back to square one,” Romo said.

“As far as cuts go, we can weather one more year,” he said. “And we are in better shape than those who have no reserves.”

Help from the federal government may also be at hand, with Bush promising around $250 million in aid to community colleges. Student Senate president Omar Damicela-Friend, who returned Friday from the State Legislative Conference in Sacramento, said he originally opposed the bond but being in Sacramento changed his mind.

“If these don’t pass,” he said, “then only the rich are going to be able to go to school.”

Romo said the Master Plan includes the concept of open education, which means affordable education for all.

“My message to the students is to get out and vote ‘yes’ on Propositions 55, 57 and 58,” Romo said.

Proposition 55 would provide the $1.4 million to begin the planning stages of a new SOMA building.