Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone board supports fee-reduction proposition

By Wes Bowers.

Thursday, November 1, 2007—Reprinted from Fremont Bulletin.

The Ohlone College Board of Trustees voted 5-0 to adopt a resolution supporting a state proposition that would stabilize funding for community colleges, reduce student fees and establish a system of independent public community college districts and a Board of Governors.

California's Proposition 92, the Comm-unity College Governance, Funding Stabilization, and Student Fee Reduction Act, requires minimum levels of state funding for school districts and community college districts to be calculated separately from kindergarten through 12th-grade school districts.

The proposition also allocates 10.46 percent of current Proposition 98 school funding maintenance factors to community colleges.

Proposition 98, approved in 1988, guarantees a minimum amount of funding for elementary and secondary schools and community colleges, according to one of three tests.

n Test 1: the same share of the general fund as in the base year of 1986-87 (recalculated to account for shifts of property tax revenues to schools).

n Test 2: the prior year's funding from state and property taxes, adjusted for inflation and enrollment increases. "Inflation" is defined as the growth in per capita personal income.

n In years of low revenue growth, when general fund tax revenues per capita increase more slowly than per capita personal income, the Proposition 98 guarantee is Test 3: the same as Test 2 except inflation is defined as the growth in per capita general fund revenues plus one-half percent. The difference between this amount and what Test 2 would have yielded is to be restored to education funding in years of high revenue growth.

Proposition 92 would set community college fees at $15 per unit per semester, as well as limit future fee increases. Ohlone's current student fee is $26 per unit, adopted in 2004.

According to Ohlone staff reports, 305,000 fewer students than expected enrolled in community colleges across the state when fees were increased to $26.

The act also guarantees that students will have at least 60 days' notice before any fee increase takes effect.

Furthermore, the act ensures that fee revenue stays with the community colleges for the improvement of education, instead of being diverted to other state programs.

According to the California Secretary of State's Web site, the potential increase in state spending on kindergarten through 14th-grade education is estimated to be about $135 million in 2007-08, $275 million in 2008-09, and $470 million in 2009-2010. Annual impacts after that year are unknown.

Annual loss of fee revenues to community colleges are estimated at about $71 million in 2007-08, the site states. Annual impacts after that year are also unknown.

According to the resolution adopted by the Board of Trustees last week, the Community College Initiative would ratify the existing bilaterally-governed community college system by placing it in the state constitution, thereby securing locally elected governing boards accountable to voters and a statewide chancellor hired by the Board of Governors who are appointed by the governor.

Trustee John Weed said the real advantage of of Proposition 92 is that it separates community college districts from elementary through high school districts.

He added the initiative will guarantee funding to community colleges as their populations increase.

"I think this will allow the continuing funding as we double in size over the next 20 or 25 years," he said. "I believe a 3 percent sustained growth is going to be the expectation, and it's going to be a reality. This is the only thing that's functional if we don't have land use assets or resources to accommodate (that growth)."

While he supported the proposition, trustee Bob Brunton said the language of the initiative was hard for the average resident to understand.

"I wish the initiative were cleaner, simpler, and shorter," he said. "There's no question a lot of compromises have been put into this, and there's a lot of wishful thinking here. I'm just concerned that taxes may be raised. If this can be done without raising taxes, I'll support this."

State voters will decide the initiative's fate on Feb. 5, 2008.

President Nick Nardolillo and Trustee Trisha Tahmasbi were absent from the meeting.

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