Posted at 2 p.m. Oct. 10, 2016
Candidates offer two-cents on budget crunch
Candidates agree, college should have rainy-day fund
The Board of Trustee candidates answered three questions sent in from the public at an election forum held Tuesday, Oct. 4. The forum was held at Laramie County Community College and was sponsored by Wingspan and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. The event was broadcast live and can be found on the Wingspan website and Youtube page.
The first question was, “What has been your relationship with the college previous to running for the Board of Trustees? Specifically, what events have you attended, and have you donated to the LCCC Foundation?”
Wendy Soto said that she has had a long history with the college. She graduated with her first degree in 1990 and has been involved in making commercials for the college. Although she said she hasn’t made a donation yet, she has been attending the board meetings since last winter.
Bob Salazar said he taught statistics as a concurrent enrollment class at the college. He said he hasn’t donated any money to the college but he does know people on the Foundation.
Sleeter Dover said he has no direct relationship with the college, but thinks he will be able to look at what’s wrong and make a positive difference. He said he has not yet made a donation.
Rick Jansen said he has no direct relationship with the college but his wife attended LCCC. He said he hasn’t donated to the school, but he wants to serve this community.
Rachel Meeker said that she has participated in many workforce activities at the college, her children participated in summer programs and she has advocated for the college. Meeker said she has not made a donation but she wants to help people who want to go back to school.
Veronica Pederson said she worked at the college from 2004 to 2015, she volunteered in the library and she was a staff representative at the board meetings. Pederson said she donated money for the wind energy program, which she said came out of her paycheck every month.
Jess Ketcham said that he participated in many of the activities on campus and he was able to attend a board meeting. He said he hasn’t made a donation yet.
Jennifer Peterson said she took dual enrollment and concurrent courses at LCCC while in high school, then she attended the college from 2004-07. Peterson said she liked it so much that she stayed an extra year. She said she hasn’t made a donation yet.
Don Erickson, the only board member seeking reelection, said he worked with other community leaders to move forward with the college in the 1960s. Erickson said he has worked with the college on many occasions during his time as mayor and as a trustee. He said he previously donated a physical therapy treadmill to the Foundation.
Ryan Lindsey said that he started his education and earned his nursing degree at LCCC.
Lindsey said that while he hasn’t donated to the foundation, he definitely will. He said he has also attended basketball and soccer games at the college.
The second question was, “Given the current budget situation, in which LCCC must cut $2.5 million from its budget in the next fiscal year and another $4.5 million in 2018, do you agree with the raises given to the president and two vice presidents? And should the administrators donate those raises back to the foundation?”
Pederson said that the board doesn’t have any influence with the raises given. While Pederson said she doesn’t agree with all of them, she said it’s unrealistic to expect those awarded a raise to return it.
Lindsey said that while he doesn’t agree with the raises, it’s out of his hands because contracts bind them. Lindsey said that the money won’t be returned but we can learn from our mistakes for future reference.
Salazar said that the college should honor the contract made. The college pays for what it gets and the money shouldn’t be returned, he said.
Erickson said that the raises should be recognized because of the contracts made. Erickson said the money shouldn’t be returned because the college has a responsibility to uphold the contract.
Ketcham said that he agrees with the contract and that there should be no returns.
Jansen said the raises were contractual and should not be given back. He also said that the employees should also be evaluated.
Soto said that it’s contractual and the money shouldn’t be returned. Soto said she agrees with Salazar about having more competitive raises.
Dover said that he agrees with the choice and the money should not be given back. Dover said that it wasn’t his place to comment.
Meeker said that the college needed to do what it said it was going to do. Meeker said that it makes people want to come to work and the raises should not be returned.
Peterson said that she agrees with the contractual agreements and the money shouldn’t be returned.
The third and final question was: “Considering that in the last 25 years there have been four economic downturns in Wyoming, from minimal to three drastic, budget cuts should not catch anyone off guard. What do you think LCCC can do to be better prepared for the inevitable budget cuts?”
Jansen said that the budget cuts will impact the college for years to come and that the college needs to be able to look at the direction its programs will go. He said that the college needs to be reactionary.
Ketcham said that the college needs to work on enrollment growth. Sixty percent of the budget comes from the Legislature and the college needs to work so that it’s not relying on that, he said.
Dover said that the board needs to look at the impact that budget cuts would have on the college, and that he made a formula to deal with budget cuts during his time as director of WyDOT.
Erickson said the board is always worried about the pay scale for employees. Erickson said that there should be compensation for the employees and the college needs to stabilize funding by working with the staff to generate revenue.
Soto said that when there is an economic downturn, the college should have money in reserve. Soto said the college needs to plan for the future and raise revenue.
Meeker said that it’s an opportunity for committed people to go back to the workforce. Meeker said program funding can be slowed without fully cutting them.
Lindsey said that he is looking forward to trying to increase revenue and that the college can work with the community. Lindsey said that the college provides a valuable service for students and if the college increases enrollment it’ll increase revenue.
Salazar said the college needs to have strategic flexibility, and the college needs to look at what it wants its business to be. He said don’t cut things that are important.
Peterson said that she agrees with Salazar. Peterson said that the programs are what increase enrollment and that it’s important to have reserves.
Pedersen said that the programs bring in more enrollment and that the college should have rainy day funds.