Washington State Community College will likely have to make major cuts in the next several years, with a reduction in state funding of more than $1 million a year expected by the college's chief financial officer.
At a special board of trustees meeting held Monday to discuss the institution's financial outlook, Washington State CFO Jess Raines said he expects a $1.5 million cut in state funding in the next fiscal year and that a worst case scenario of $1.8 million is even possible.
"We can't make up that amount out of the (discretionary) piece of the pie," he said. "It's fair to say we're going to have to slim the staff... and there may be programs we are no longer able to offer."
Raines said he wanted to get the message out now about potential cuts so that employees are not "blindsided" later on.
A projected state budget shortfall and a new incoming Ohio governor mean public education could take a hit, he said.
"Governor-elect Kasich isn't as likely to support education as Gov. Strickland has been," Raines said. "A lot of people in education believe a 20 percent cut is the minimum we would receive."
The college has a general fund budget of about $14.8 million and $5.2 million of that comes from the state. This year, there was also an additional $921,580 from the state through one-time stimulus funds.
A bigger portion of Washington State's revenue-$7.5 million-comes from tuition and fees, but administrators and trustees both expressed concern about depending on raising tuition to cover a financial gap.
Washington State President Charlotte Hatfield said she's made it a priority in her eight years at the college to keep the tuition in the middle of the range created by comparable colleges.
"Before, the expectation was that we could always raise tuition," she said. "We were the third highest in terms of tuition... and now in that time period we've increased 19 percent while the sector as a whole has increased 33 percent. We've gone from the top to the middle."
If tuition increases too much, it would likely begin to impact enrollment numbers, said chief enrollment management officer Amanda Herb.
"Everything is linked to something else," she said.
Ohio's state-funded schools currently have a tuition increase cap of 3.5 percent in place but that would likely be lifted if major state funding reductions were approved.
Raines, who presented the financial outlook to about 80 college employees last week, is taking suggestions on how to boost revenue or where to cut costs. The school spends 75.5 percent of its budget on salaries and benefits.
Trustees said Monday they think some of the college's auxiliary services, including the Evergreen Child Development Center and Workforce Development need to be closely examined.
"The child care center has never made anything and has always been a loss," said Trustee Sue Marvin. "Workforce development has always lost money, too."
Currently, Washington State's only money-making auxiliary-its book store-is supporting the other two, said Raines.
"We do need to consider the efficiency of those entities," he said. "They're not off the table."
There are still benefits to the child care and workforce development centers, though, he said.
The child development center not only provides child care for some students but training for about 100 students a year, while workforce development is a staple at nearly every community college.
Cuts have been made to Workforce Development already, reducing its staff to two-and-a-half positions and its finances are improving month to month, said Raines, although he doesn't expect a balanced budget this year.
The college also can't depend on reserve funds to help them through state reductions, he said. There is about $2.3 million in reserves but once that money is gone, it's gone, Rained reminded the board.
"This isn't just going to be a one-time cut," he said. "It will be permanent and if we're using this to balance our budget we're doing what the state did with stimulus money...it's a short-term solution."