Mountain View Voice

News - September 17, 2010

Jobs, classes, services cut in Foothill-De Anza budget

State financial crisis blamed, 'heroic' staff praised by district officials

by Nick Veronin

Courses have been discontinued, positions have been eliminated, pay packages have been downsized and faculty are overworked at Foothill and De Anza colleges, officials said.

"The state is broke and 90 percent of our money comes from the state," said Linda Thor, chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District. Due to the state's financial woes, Thor said, students and district employees have been hit with many cuts.

California was scheduled to pass a state budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year on June 30. That budget, which is attempting to close a $19.1 billion gap, has yet to be approved. Until it is, State Controller John Chiang cannot issue checks to many state-subsidized institutions, including community colleges. So far, due to the budget impasse, Chiang has been unable to issue $539.5 million to community colleges throughout the state.

Since 2008, the district has suffered funding cuts to multiple programs, including those geared toward helping economically, physically and developmentally disadvantaged students, as well as in student-transfer services, instructional equipment and scheduled maintenance projects.

This year, Foothill and De Anza colleges will offer 500 fewer programs than they did in the 2008-2009 term.

In an effort to save money, the district eliminated 117 full- and part-time positions from the budget between 2009 and 2010. That includes five administrators, 11 faculty members and 101 other support staff. However, 39 of the support positions eliminated from the budget will be funded through June of next year using $7.7 million in reserve funds the district has set aside to help preserve critical positions.

This year, all five Foothill-De Anza unions agreed to shoulder more health care costs, and there have been no cost-of-living adjustments for employees on either campus for three years running.

Even after scaling back course offerings, Thor said, instructors at Foothill and De Anza colleges have had to take on larger class sizes to meet student demand.

"The faculty are being very heroic and taking in numbers of students beyond what the state is paying us for," Thor said.

If all goes well, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's most recent budget proposal is approved, the district could end up with a positive number on its balance sheet next June. But school officials aren't keeping their fingers crossed. Thor said not many at Foothill-De Anza think the governor's proposal is realistic and couldn't say when budget will finally be passed.

In the meantime, Thor said, Foothill-De Anza remains committed to student success.

This year district officials anticipate it will be able to serve 36,168 full-time students — the same number as last year. If the district does not suffer any further cuts, Thor said, Foothill-De Anza may even be able to take on 1,000 students beyond what they have budgeted for. However, anything too far above the 3,710 mark would be untenable.

"We are committed to access but also to student success," she said, explaining that the district wants to take on as many students as possible, but not so many that the students will be unable to receive the instruction and resources they need.

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