College to OK budget, set tax rate

Howard College trustees are expected to formally approve the budget and tax rate for the coming fiscal year when they hold their monthly meeting at 12:30 p.m. Monday in the student union building’s Tumbleweed Room.College officials have crafted a $36.6 million budget, which is almost $1.5 million less than the previous year. That decrease reflects both a loss of state revenue and the completion of bond-related renovation projects during the past few months.The story is much the same for the SouthWest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf budget, which will also be approved Monday. SWCID’s budget, which is financed almost exclusively from state revenue, will shrink from $4.3 million to $3.95 million this coming fiscal year.Howard College President Dr. Cheryl Sparks said the biggest financial blow to the college has come in the area of state revenue, which has dropped more than 15 percent in the past two years.“And if you factor in an increase in contact hours the state is not funding, that decrease is more like 37 percent,” Sparks noted.Contact hours — the amount of time students are physically in classes or labs — are the figures state officials use when determining how much revenue to disperse to colleges.Despite that dramatic dropoff in revenue, college officials were able to come up with a budget that is both balanced and doesn’t feature an increase in the tax rate.Trustees are expected to approve a tax rate of 23.85 cents per $100 valuation Monday. That rate will raise the same amount of tax revenue as last year’s rate of 28.56 cents per $100 valuation.Sparks commended the college’s staff for their work on the budget.“We essentially worked on the budget for the past year and a half,” she said. “We did not know exactly what the final numbers would be, but we knew to expect less revenue. But, through the efforts of many people … we’ve been able to make this budget work.”A public hearing will precede the trustees’ vote on the new budget and tax rate.In other business, trustees will consider:• Reports on accountability and pass-fail rates.• Summer enrollment figures.• Future projects, including a new sign at the coliseum and electrical repairs.• Investment policy changes and review.• Catalog and handbook changes.Contact Staff Writer Steve Reagan at 263-7331 ext. 234 or by e-mail at