College to put budget to bed

Howard College officials are more than ready to get this budget business behind them for another year.After a summer dealing with uncertainty and shortfalls, trustees are expected to approve the college's 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.Trustees will likely OK a tax rate of roughly 18 cents per $100 valuation, which is 6 cents below the previous year's rate but will still bring in more local tax revenue in 2012-2013.The college is forced to increase its tax levy because of an anticipated $650,000 drop in state revenue this year, College President Dr. Cheryl Sparks said.Several positions which are currently vacant will remain unfilled. Those positions include faculty spots in the sociology and computer science departments, as well as two assistant coach posts and custodial, clerical and financial aid openings.Keeping those positions vacant, along with the increase in local tax revenues, will allow the college to submit a balanced budget, Sparks said.Total expenditures in this year's budget include $39.9 million for the Big Spring campus — an increase of more than $3 million from the previous year — and $4.5 million for SouthWest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf. The increase in expenditures, Sparks said, is because the college is receiving more than $3 million in non-discretionary grants which are targeted at specific areas and cannot be used for general revenue purposes.Sparks sounded relieved the sometime-contentious budget process was coming to an end.“Without a doubt, this has been the most difficult budget we've had to prepare, as far as I can remember,” Sparks said. “It took the entire team to get this ready … and we're ready and excited to get the school year started.”