Budget forum warns of dire possibilities ahead

Allyce Ferrua, Staff Writer

The SRJC Board of Directors held a budget forum March 20 with the goal of finding solutions and publicizing information about the tax extension, which needs public support to appear on the June ballot. The forum included discussions on budget cuts being made by the state and how, if the current budget is approved, SRJC may lose up to $13 million.

“As dire as the situation may seem, I remain confident we can get through this if we continue to work together,” said President Dr. Robert Agrella.

Gov. Brown’s 2011 budget must close an estimated $25.4 billion shortfall. The Governor’s plan is to cut spending by approximately $12.5 billion and generate another $12 billion by renewing a tax extension that is set to expire July 1. The budget for community colleges could be cut between $290 and $720 million altogether without the extension.

However, on March 29, the California GOP and Gov. Brown’s negotiations for the tax extension to appear on the ballot came to a halt, leaving uncertainty as to whether the extension will be put to voters. If voters do not approve the tax extension, the state will have to make another $12 billion in cuts.

The board allotted each speaker fifteen minutes to discuss ways to deal with cuts on campus and how the college will change if approved. Some of the speakers included Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Mary Kay Rudolph, Associated Students President Amanda Swan and Vice President of Business Services Doug Roberts.

“An ‘all-cuts plan’ at the state level moves our budget planning for next year to a worse case scenario,” said Roberts, who was the first to speak at the meeting. If the tax extension is not approved, SRJC would face the “worse case scenario” in losing up to $16.5 million.

Rudolph stressed that the school would face drastic cuts at a “worst scenario” level. “We will have ten percent fewer classes in the fall semester. We would have fewer options for students, fewer classes and less full-time teachers”

SRJC has cut approximately 400 classes since 2005. With ten percent more being cut next semester, the school could see less than 2,000 classes being held. Rudolph urges students to do everything in their power to transfer as soon as possible. “If you have priority [registration], use it; go in and see a counselor, plan your education out,” said Rudolph. “We have to get down to the core mission, and the students are our core mission.”

A big part of the discussion included the speakers urging the audience to write and call the lawmakers of California. “We do need to march on Sacramento, please contact the legislators, it will help astronomically,” said Swan in an emotionally-charged speech. “For every dollar spent on education, seven dollars were spent on the prison system. Who elected these people?”

Associated Students is already taking action, and has come up with a concept called “My Story” to highlight the impact of budget cuts on SRJC students. Each teacher received a packet with “My Story” surveys to pass out to their students. The surveys consist of questions regarding students’ educational backgrounds and their stay at SRJC. Some of the questions include: “has your education plan changed due to budget cuts?” and “what type of financial aid do you receive?” On the back of the survey there is a request to write about what student life has been like at SRJC. These surveys will be sent to legislators in Sacramento. 

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