SMC dodges proposed budget cuts

State budget cuts to higher education have been largely avoided at Santa Monica College, due to a surplus of $2.1 million. Back in January 2011, California’s newly appointed governor Jerry Brown proposed three scenarios of budget cuts for California community colleges: Scenarios A, B, and D.  Scenario A consisted of a $5.57 million cut to the community college system for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. Additionally, Scenario B would have been a 9 percent cut, and  Scenario D at 15 percent.

Despite last semester’s grim outlook, SMC is doing well compared to other local community colleges because of a surplus of $2.1 million, money that has largely accumulated from a variety of revenue-saving initiatives at Santa Monica College.

According to a recent Board of Trustees’ meeting agenda, “The District closed the year with a 2.100,851 operating surplus based on a comparison of ongoing revenues and expenditures.”

“Although SMC received a 6.2 percent budget cut, which feels in between Scenario A and B, our school during the 2010-2011 school year was able to tighten up its belt and save this now-surplus money,” said Robert Isomoto, Vice President of Business and Administration at SMC.

ESL Professor Janet Harclerode, the current Academic Senate President gave examples of the kind of revenue savings ideas implemented on campus: “SMC was able to raise its non-resident fees, which is something that we have wanted to do for a while. Our sustainability practices on campus, such as automatic lights in offices saved energy which then saved money. The school also decided to cut some of its advertising methods from the past.”

Because of these money saving practices, many special programs on campus, which are utilized by many students, were able to continue serving those in need. The Black Collegians Program, which assists students of African descent in succeeding at SMC, was in jeopardy of losing some of their services to their students.

“With this additional money we were able to keep the services that we provided for students in the fall of 2011,” said Program Leader Sherri Bradford.

Apart from the benefit of sustained counseling hours and more full time staff, an array of student services have been innovated, including two computer labs on campus which were updated with technical upgrades, and funding for additional tutoring.

The current school year is in the clear, but there may be a threat for 2012-2013. “Trigger cuts can happen if the state doesn’t get the $4 billion revenue from California State taxes,” said Isomoto. “Worst case scenario, if only $1.5 million is made in state tax revenue, SMC will have to cut $2.5 million or 3 percent in order to make up the loss” As of now, the states report of the last couple of month’s state tax revenue will come out in December. That will determine whether SMC will be making more cuts to its budget. “SMC is fiscally cautious,” said Professor Harclerode. “Unlike other schools, we save money for situations like this, and are not quick to spend.”