HC to slash $4 mil

The math is pretty simple — or simply depressing, depending on your point of view.Howard College trustees will get their first look at a proposed budget for the coming fiscal year when they hold a workshop at 10 a.m. Monday in the Student Union Building’s Tumbleweed Room. The workshop will be followed by a trustee meeting scheduled for 12:30 a.m.Because of significant cuts in state aid to the college this year, the budget promises to be beyond conservative, officials promise.College President Dr. Cheryl Sparks listed the areas where Howard will lose significant chunks of state revenue:• In basic state funding, HC and SouthWest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf will lose $1.6 million.• At the same time, the college district has experienced a 21 percent increase in contact hours — the time students are physically in classes or labs — but will not receive any state aid to offset the costs of that increase.• The $1 million “small school supplement” which Howard received last year has been cut in half.• The college will receive $1.4 million less in state revenue for employee benefits. “That’s money the college will have to make up,” Sparks said.• In addition, the college will receive approximately $100,000 less in state money earmarked for employee retirement pay. ”We’ll have to make up those cost, too,” Sparks noted.All told, the college will have to make do with more than $4 million less in state money over the next two years.To compensate for that shortfall, the college has adopted a variety of cost-cutting measures, including:• A freeze on new hirings in some positions and a realignment of duties and responsibilities in others.Sparks said the college has cut its workforce by about 9 percent in the last year. That includes 27 positions that were lost outright and nine which will be financed through contracts with local and area businesses.• Raised tuition and fees.• Reduced operating costs where possible.• Sought alternative revenue sources, including grants and the aforementioned contracts.• No courses will be cut, although the college will decrease the number of classes it will offer or increase class sizes.The college may utilize outside instructors or online courses in some areas.• No employee raises will be offered this year.Sparks said the budget is prepared with no increase in taxes. Instead, officials plan to use the district’s effective rate — the rate which will raise the same amount of tax revenue as the previous year — of 24 cents per $100 valuation, a decrease of 4.5 cents from the 2010-2011 fiscal year.For some, that will mean a decrease in their tax bills, depending on their property valuation.The 2011-2012 budget and tax rate should be formally approved Aug. 22, Sparks said.In other business Monday, trustees will consider:• Bond project updates.• A report on the college’s response to water issues.• Bids and catalog and handbook changes.Contact Staff Writer Steve Reagan at 263-7331 ext. 234 or by e-mail at reporter@bigspringherald.com