The funding of the Yuba Community College District’s (YCCD) Clear Lake campus has become the focus of controversy amid the District’s budgetary woes and executive review process.
Under special scrutiny is the $3.8 million dollar program begun in 1999 to build 13 new portable buildings and purchase two existing portables at the satellite campus in Lake County.
The District had planned to rent out the new portables to as many as ten tenants, among them the Department of Rehabilitation, the Lake County Workforce Investment Act office and Pacific Union College. However, of the $445,000 that was to be received as rent from tenants over the past three fiscal years, the District has received only $58,000.
To compound the problem, the District has sunk $87,000 into capital improvements to the new facilities. The end result has been a three-year shortfall of $474,000 that must be paid from the District’s General Fund.
Additionally, the District is incurring an ongoing yearly expense of $307,000 to repay financing for the multi-million dollar building program and an additional $60,000 a year on maintenance cost for the new Clear Lake facilities.
In a memo dated March 13, John Flaherty, physics professor and President of the Academic Senate, stated, “The dramatic shortfall in rental income comes at the inopportune time where we have a $500,000 to $2.5 million shortfall in the YCCD budget for the next year. The Budget Task Force is starting an analysis of ALL programs for potential budget cuts of this magnitude.”
Flaherty’s memo places the blame for such a shortfall chiefly on the project approval process. The memo concludes that “having the Executive Deans of Lake and Woodland report directly to the CEO (Dr. Stephen Epler, former Yuba College President) allowed for the circumvention of the normal lower administrative and committee review process. We are now apparently paying dearly for this lack of careful scrutiny of this project.”
Kevin Trutna, the Interim Executive Dean of the Lake Campus, although unable to give specific explanations for the non-payment of rent by Lake tenants, indicated that each case of non-payment was unique. Many of the rental contracts were “encumbered” or payment was being temporarily withheld because of technicalities such as State Fire Marshal approval for the site.
Trutna, who has served as Interim Dean since January after the resignation of George McQueen, focused on the potential growth at the Lake campus. “The District (YCCD) is subsidizing the future growth of the campus. Ten years from now, the campus will be able to grow and serve Lake County better. There is a cry for services.”
He went on to explain the fortunate position of the Lake campus versus other District campuses. “When other campuses like Woodland are already above capacity, Lake is in the enviable position to be able to grow into its space,” said Trutna.
According to Trutna, there are approximately 600 to 700 full-time equivalent students enrolled at Clear Lake, and the campus is experiencing a steady growth of three to five percent in FTES (Full-Time Equivalent Students). Popular programs include Information Technology and a CISCO Networking Academy, business and office administration and a food service program. The food services and IT programs have benefited directly from the new space built in 1999, said Trutna. The new construction has contributed to growth in FTES.
Trutna acknowledges that the $474,000 shortfall experienced over the last three years is a “sticky situation,” but he believes the new construction will one day pay off. “I think it will pay for itself,” said Trutna, “though it will be ten to fifteen years before it happens.”Because of the budgetary debacle, the faculty and staff at the Clear Lake campus have been put on the defensive. In a widely distributed e-mail dated March 29, Lake campus Mass Communications Professor Helen Shaw stated, “When other employees in the District make statements which attribute the District’s financial woes to CLCC (Clear Lake Community College), our faculty and staff become quite annoyed.””We, more than anyone else in the District, are saddened and upset by what the documents produced by the Chief Business Officer and the Academic Senate reveal,” Shaw wrote.
She went on to defend Clear Lake’s financial contribution to the whole District. According to Shaw’s calculations, the Clear Lake campus contributes far greater revenue to the District than was ever re-invested there, and the campus actually operates at an average budget surplus of $850,000 that goes back into the District’s General Fund. Shaw’s budget calculations include the $307,000 annual financing of the new buildings.
During the April 10 Board of Trustees meeting, the Clear Lake buildings were discussed in depth. “We have a great opportunity to grow this campus,” said President Harrington when talking of our sister campus. She expressed her desire to convert the campus to a full college when it is expected to reach 1,500 to 2,000 FTES within seven to eight years. She also expressed her hope to work with a new Lake Campus Dean to develop a new long-range plan.
Addressing the financing issue, Harrington reminded the Board that the District would take a while to fully utilize the new Lake facilities. She also cited the situation as a good reason “to have a system of checks and balances. We need a new model of decision-making.”
Attendees to the Board Meeting were allowed to express their own opinions on the budget issue. Attendee M.J. Grace noted, “$3 million in the early nineties was spent on a parking lot at the Woodland campus.
There was much uproar. Where would we be now without that parking lot? The college is in deep financial problems for a lot of reasons, including Clear Lake.”