SRJC prepares for Prop 30 – win or lose

Domanique Crawford, Staff Writer

If Proposition 30 does not pass, SRJC could face additional cuts in administration and classes. Since the state began to cut funding the Sonoma County Junior College District has lost more than one- quarter of its students.

Governor Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 is a tax initiative designed to prevent deeper school cuts, guarantee public safety funding and help balance the budget. Governor Brown wants to increase sales taxes and provide higher taxable income brackets, which analyst predicted will stimulate approximately $6 billion in annual revenue.

In the past four years the state has cut $20 billion in school funding. To accommodate these drawbacks community colleges have reduced staff and faculty members, tightened financial aid policies and offered fewer classes to students.

In the last four years SRJC has suffered 20 percent of class cuts, 8 percent in 2011-12 alone, according to SRJC’s President, Dr. Frank Chong. “We have a tremendous growing demand and a shrinking supply,” Chong said.

Proposition 30 installs policies that will help prevent cuts in funding and community colleges will receive $210 million in additional funds in 2012-13. Money specifically raised for schools will be set into a new special fund for public schools called the Education Protection Account, which the legislature will not be allowed to touch. Annual audits will ensure that revenue generated from the initiative will be spent on schools.

The initiative temporarily raises the state’s sales tax by a quarter cent from Jan. 1, 2013-Dec. 31, 2016 and creates three high-income tax brackets for taxpayers with an income over $250,000, $300,000 and $500,000 for seven years. Raising the tax brackets will help close the $15.7-billion state-budget shortfall and 11 percent of the revenues will go to California community colleges.

SRJC cut classes in summer and fall 2012 semesters in anticipation of the initiative not passing on the November ballot. If the initiative passes Chong and SRJC’s Board of Trustees hope to bring back the classes and “increase the funding base to meet the needs of the student body,” Chong said. With the passing of the initiative the District will be able to return to the level of service provided in 2011-12.

However, if the bill does not pass, Dr. Chong and the board will have to resort to cutting more classes and may have to reduce the number of SRJC campuses. SRJC will focus mainly on its transfer programs, which means that senior education, kinesiology and art classes will suffer the brunt of the cuts.

Without the income generated from Prop. 30, the 2012-2013 budget requires state reductions of $6 billion. Roughly $5.4 billion will be cut from K-12 and community colleges. Another $500 million will be cut from higher education. The revenue loss for the Sonoma County Junior College district would be $5.2 million. This cut would have to come from classified and administration and would represent a staffing reduction of approximately 16 percent.

To prepare for the failure of Proposition 30 the district is considering potential revenue enhancements in the form of a parcel tax. “We want to prove to the community that there is a strong need and a parcel tax will help support it,” said Jessica Jones, SRJC Associated Students president.

Assuming that voters reject the bill, both the University of California (UC) and California State University systems will face $250 million in budget reductions. The UC Board of Regents warns students hoping to transfer to the UC system that the tuition cost may increase by 20 percent if the proposition fails to pass.

The failure of this initiative would cause a statewide ripple effect. Other programs in jeopardy of receiving cuts include; the Department of Development services, city police department grants, Cal Fire, Department of Water Resources flood control programs, local water safety patrol grants, Department of Fish and Game, Department of Parks and Recreation and Department of Justice law enforcement programs, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

On Sept. 19, SRJC will host an educational forum that will essentially be a rally to educate students on Proposition 30 and Proposition 38.