Posted at 4 p.m. Oct 4, 2016

Budget must shrink $4.5 million by 2018

Outside of the classrooms and the campus activities, Laramie County Community College faculty, staff and administrators are working to solve a budget deficit of $2.5 million this year. That deficit is expected to climb as high as $4.5 million by 2018.

The LCCC community has remained relatively insulated from the losses – for now. Six percent of the total LCCC operating budget will have to be cut in the next year.

Where the campus will find $4.5 million by fiscal year 2018 is still very much up in the air. Administrators and employees are working on ways to save money through efficiency and find new ways for the campus to make money that can offset the deficit. President Dr. Joe Schaffer has stated that all options are on the table to balance the budget.

State funding dries up

Over the last year, Wyoming has faced a severe economic downturn. Statistics from the State of Wyoming Economic Analysis Division show total non-farm employment fell by 8,800 jobs and the state has faced 10 consecutive months of year-over-year job losses. The unemployment rate climbed to 5 percent, oil and gas jobs declined by 5,000, natural gas production is down 4.3 percent and oil production is down 14.1 percent. But the worst hit for LCCC came from coal production falling 32.6 percent.

For fiscal year 2016, LCCC received $19.73 million in aid from the state of Wyoming, which was a decrease of nearly $1 million from the $20.6 million the school received the year before. The fiscal year 2017 and 2018 estimates are significantly lower, by more than $3 million less each year. The Legislature is estimated to allocate $16.7 million in 2017 and $16.2 million in 2018.

Closing the gap

To offset the nearly $1-million cut from the current budget year and the additional $3 million funding gap in fiscal year 2017, the college plans to use $1 million from reserves and $575,000 from the school’s one-mill property tax revenue. That leaves approximately $2.5 million that the college needs to cut for the 2017 budget.

The picture becomes even more bleak in 2018, when the college’s ability to offset the deficit with reserves and $575,000 in property tax revenue are both gone, and the state budget is forecast to decrease spending by another $500,000. That will create a deficit of $4.5 million from the fiscal year 2015 budget.

Raise report

The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle reported earlier this month that it had obtained information on LCCC administrators receiving raises through a public records request.

According to the report, Schaffer received a 4-percent raise, Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Terry Harper received a 4-percent raise and Judy Hay, vice president of student services, received an 8-percent raise. The three raises total $22,637 in salary.

Schaffer said his raise was a contractual obligation but there were 45 other LCCC staff members given raises: Nine were given to faculty, 10 to professional staff, three to administrators and 25 to hourly staff. According to data provided by Schaffer, the highest raise was 40.7 percent and the average was 7.3 percent.

The CORE Initiative

Schaffer’s proposed plan, the CORE Initiative, has two main goals to reduce the budget. The first goal is to balance the fiscal year 2018 budget to meet known and anticipated shortfalls by reducing expenditures, finding efficiencies and/or increasing revenue.

The second goal is to ensure LCCC continues to meet the needs of its stakeholders and students as the first priority, Schaffer said. The plan is to insure this by preserving the core of LCCC’s mission by establishing implementing strategies to increase value in areas that underperform compared to the predetermined standards. For example, identifying a program with steadily declining graduation rates, determining why the rates are dropping and attempting to remedy the issues.

The CORE Initiative also established efficiency and revenue committees made up of staff and faculty to help identify solutions and opportunities. Those committees are currently gathering ideas, then sending the best ideas on to the President’s Cabinet.

There is not much time for this plan to be drafted and finalized before it is presented to the Board of Trustees on Dec. 7.

An online forum was created on Eagles Eye for faculty and staff. It can be found under AAA_CORE Initiative.

The Budget:

LCCC unveils plan to guide budget cuts