Spring budget in limbo

Samuel Gonzalez

Los Medanos College, and probably every other public education institution in California, has got its figurative fingers crossed hoping that California voters approve Proposition 30 in the upcoming November elections.

Prop 30 proposes to increase sales and use taxes for all Californians by one quarter of a cent for four years.

The proposition would also increase personal income tax on annual earnings over $250,000 for seven years. According to California’s Attorney Generals Office, the taxes would raise an additional $6 billion in tax revenue annually.

Without the funds generated from these new taxes, California Community Colleges will face another round of so-called trigger cuts.

With this scenario in mind, newly appointed LMC President Bob Kratochvil, along with LMC’s instructional deans, called faculty and staff together Monday, Aug. 20 for a discussion about the future of the college.

“LMC faces an unusual scheduling dilemma for spring 2013,” Kratochvil wrote in the email Aug. 17 announcing the College Assembly. “If the November state tax measure passes, we will need to add sections; if it fails, we will need to cut sections.”

Whether the college gets an opportunity to grow again, or whether it must continue cutting, LMC faces the need to re-address its priorities and figure out exactly what type of institution it wants to be.

Monday’s assembly asked about 80 members of the college community to begin doing that by addressing four questions prepared for the event:

  • Should the college prioritize certain students and de-prioritize other students?  If so, what are the priorities?
  • What should our curricular mix look like?  What programs and courses should the college offer or not offer?
  • Are there services or programs we should provide more of, less of, streamline, or not provide?
  • Do you have other suggestions for reducing the budget, growing the budget or becoming more efficient?

Before the discussion got under way a few ground rules were set.

“Please be cautious about taking things too personal and trying to establish what some may call sacred cows, your own territory, the viewpoints of your disciplines,” Kratochvil said. “Let’s try to have a perspective that is holistic and institutionally based as best we can, keeping in mind what’s important for our community and our students.”

Kiran Kamath, dean of career and technical education at LMC, also spoke before people were divided into groups for the discussions.

“What we want today is to have a philosophical dialogue, and not get down to the numbers, about who we should serve and what programs and services we should offer,” Kamath said.

The four groups each had about 40 minutes to discuss the questions presented to them. A wide range of ideas were proposed by the groups, from changing the way priority enrollments are handled to preventing high school students from making up units at LMC. (For a summary of ideas generated at the assembly meeting, see accompanying sidebar.)

“It was kind of a preliminary thing, kind of to get the heartbeat of the faculty,” Kratochvil said last Friday about the faculty discussion, adding that they plan on continuing the discussion throughout the semester.

Kratochvil said he plans to call a town hall meeting after the election to decide how to respond to either the passage or failure of Prop 30.

The following ideas were generated by members of the college community at the Aug. 20 College Assembly in response to the current budget crisis and the need to re-think the college mission.

  • Required counseling sessions and mandatory educational plans linked to priority registration.
  • Concurrent enrollment reduction.
  • Examine reassigned time.
  • Not allow high school students to make up units here.
  • Limit the number of degrees a student can earn at LMC.
  • Possible reduction developmental education.
  • Create better more tightly woven learning communities on campus. A first year experience-combine/collaborate/consolidate.
  • Look at and study the successful programs/units on campus to see how we can do this across campus.
  • Faculty/Classified/Management support groups for Prop 30 and parcel tax.