February 4, 2009 State Budget Update - Ohlone College President's Office

Members of the Ohlone College Community:

The state’s severe fiscal problems continue with no decisions on where cuts will occur.  We still have very little information upon which we can plan.  The Governor has a proposal for this year’s cuts and next year’s budget, but the legislature remains far from agreement, perhaps even further apart than before.  There seems to be, however, a growing awareness about the role of community colleges in job training, retraining, and economic development, potentially affording community colleges some protection from drastic cuts. 

As I reported in my State of the College speech, the governor’s proposal for this year includes the elimination of the tiny 0.68% COLA and a delay in apportionment payments which will cause many districts cash-flow problems.  Ohlone should be able to weather it with our cash on hand and reserves, without dipping into our 5% reserve required by state.  Depending on how the state handles apportionment payments, cash flow may be an issue.

The governor’s budget proposal for next year includes no COLA, continued delay of apportionment payments to the colleges, and an enrollment growth allowance of 3%.  Also being discussed is a 50% student fee increase and cuts to categorical funding.  Furloughs for state workers (not us) are scheduled to take effect beginning this Friday, so legislators are motivated to make some decisions. 

In the face of uncertainty, we are taking conservative steps.  To preserve educational offerings for our core students and mission, we are eliminating most K-9 enrollment and reducing our dual enrollment program at local high schools.  We are also building our class schedule to hit the 3% growth target proposed by the governor.  I’d like to provide a little background on what the target is and how we will plan to reach it. 

As you are probably aware, community colleges are almost entirely funded from the state general fund.  Although we collect fees, we send almost all of it to the state.  The state allocates money to the colleges based on the number of Full-Time Equivalent Students (FTES) each one serves.  However, our enrollment is capped, and any FTES in excess of the cap is not paid for by the state.  During years the state determines it will allow community college enrollment to grow, each college is given a growth target.  The target tends to move somewhat during the year, but it is generally pretty close to what we are funded for ultimately.

This year (2008-09) Ohlone’s growth target is 1.21%.  That is, we are to be reimbursed for 1.21% more FTES that we were reimbursed for in 2007-08.  However, our enrollment is up significantly more than 1.2%.  So far this semester, we are up about 15%.  We want to protect the fall and spring semesters because we know students are depending on us to offer classes that will allow them to complete their educational goals during the regular school year.  Summer, being somewhat optional for most students, offers us more flexibility.  Our plan for this year (2008-09) is to preserve the fall and spring offerings while reducing summer by 18%.  We will still have a large summer program, but we will remain within our enrollment allowances and avoid the expense of offering classes for which we will receive no funding.

We have had a hiring freeze in place since January 2008, which means that I scrutinize every request to hire a new position or re-hire when someone resigns or retires.  We have hired only where we must, and this practice will continue. This freeze is translating into over one million dollars in cost saving for the district.  Next year we will not include those positions in our budget.  We are also saving money by curtailing purchases, consolidating building use this summer, reviewing each request for travel to determine whether it is essential, halting submission of purchase orders past February 15, and carefully reviewing the budget for each program/department to affect savings where possible.

At the same time we are cutting back on expenses, we are pursuing opportunities for increasing revenue by actively seeking grants, increasing fee-based courses like Ohlone for Kids, and continuing to add to the number of international students we serve.  We are paying close attention to what the Obama stimulus package has to offer community colleges.

Our obligation is to protect Ohlone’s fiscal well-being, continue to protect programs and services that directly impact students, and to avoid layoffs of our staff, faculty and administrators.  Please continue to look for updates on my webpage, and don’t hesitate to offer your ideas.

Although the state circumstances are dire and the uncertainty of future funding is unsettling, we will continue to work creatively together to make our way through this.


Gari Browning, Ph.D.

(Note:  Several documents are posted on a “Document Index” here:

Feedback Blog re Budget Updates

President Browning is interested in your thoughts and suggestions. Add a comment about this budget update on the Ohlone College Budget Updates Blog.