Proposition 30 provides fiscal aid
Gov. Brown’s tax initiative prevents cuts to colleges
Students at California's 112 community colleges can rest a bit easier heading into the spring semester after Proposition 30's voter approval on Nov. 6.
Awaiting the results of the proposition, Contra Costa College administrators anticipated a 2012 spring semester with additional cuts to courses, just in case Proposition 30 failed.
Proposition 30 is a tax initiative that will increase sales tax in California by one quarter of a cent while increasing income tax rates for individuals making more than $250,000 annually.
Approval of the tax means that CCC can add up to 60 course sections to next semester's schedule thanks to the additional 114 Full-Time Equivalent Students (FTES) needed. One FTES equates to one student enrolled in 12 units.
California community colleges receive state funding according to their amount of FTES.
Liberal, Applied Health, Vocational Education and Athletics Dean Susan Lee said she is excited about the proposition passing.
"We've cut every year for the last four years," she said. "We've been reducing - to be able to tell the faculty that we're adding is great."
Being that Proposition 30 passed near the end of fall semester and the funds it produces were not guaranteed, Lee said most of the classes that will be added will be late-start or intersession courses.
Interim Vice President Donna Floyd said creating the schedule for spring 2013 carried difficulties because of the uncertainty of Proposition 30.
"It was like creating two different schedules and that was new for us," she said. "It didn't just mean putting an additional 6 percent of courses on the schedule if the proposition passed. That would only make us even."
To prepare for more possible cuts, college administrators created a schedule for spring 2013 based on a budget without the tax measure. A number of courses were selected, subject to being cut in case Proposition 30 did not pass.
Since the tax passed, not only will those pre-selected courses no longer be cut, but the additional courses must be added to the schedule.
Late-start sections are classes that begin during a semester rather than the first day of instruction. Intersession classes are during the break between the end of the spring semester before summer courses start.
CCC's adopted 2012-13 budget FTES number stood at 5,466, equaling just over $24 million in budget allotment.
Failure of Proposition 30 would have meant approximately $5.4 billion in cuts to K-14 education statewide.
The additional FTES increases the college's budget by $480,691.
"FTES is huge for our budget," Dr. Floyd said. "If 30 hadn't passed we would have had another reduction - possibly to the lowest FTES amount that I can remember."
Aside from working 2009-11 at Diablo Valley College as the interim vice president, Floyd has spent the last 17 years of her career at CCC.
The tax is expected to raise about $6 billion in additional state revenue for the 2012-13 fiscal year. Money generated is supposed to be designated for K-14 education. The sales tax increase will expire after four years, while the income tax rates increase lasts seven years.
According to the Governor's Office the sales tax increase will go into effect New Year's Day and the income tax rates increase is effective this year.
At a college general assembly meeting to discuss the results of the Nov. 6 election, CCC President Denise Noldon attributed the passing of Proposition 30 to the increased voter turnout for 18- to 29-year-olds.
In 2008, 20 percent of California voters were between ages 18-29. In the recent election, that percentage rose to 27 percent according to CNN's exit polls.
Although revenue produced by the proposition will go to fund K-14 education, as indicated in Gov. Jerry Brown's enacted 2012-13 fiscal year budget, revenue collected from the tax following 2012-13 will go to the state's general fund.
Floyd and Dr. Noldon, during Thursday's meeting, said additional advocacy to ensure the money continues to fund community colleges is necessary. Due to the proposition passing just last week, there are no such plans for advocacy in place.
The added class sections and FTES could lead to an increased number of students enrolling. However, four consecutive years of budget cuts, to the tune of $21 million for the district, have led to reductions of personnel in the student services department at CCC - a concern for CCC faculty and staff members.
Although Counseling Department Chairperson Norma Valdez-Jimenez said she is very excited that the proposition passed, she is concerned about the ability the college will have to accommodate the expected increase in students.
"What kind of strain does this put on student services?" Valdez-Jimenez asked. "Will there be enough appointments for students in the Counseling Office, for assessment tests or for financial aid support - that's my concern, about student services in general.
"I think that we are still in this for awhile," she said referring to the college's budget situation. "From a fiscal standpoint this is the worst situation I've seen the college in because we don't have the capacity to support students as we did in the past."
Cuts to student services personnel have led to some faculty members working in multiple departments. Student Life Coordinator Kelly Ramos also doubles as an assistant in the Financial Aid Office.
"I'm expecting to see more students because we will offer more courses," Ramos said. "Hopefully the addition of courses will help students enroll in needed classes and graduate. My only concern is student services accommodating more students."
Ramos also mentioned the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) as another means that the college may see more students.
"I have faith in (Interim Dean of Student Services Vicki Ferguson) but we don't have as many faculty as we used to," Ramos said. "It's going to take some restructuring and planning - people are going to have to be willing to do that."
Hindering the college from increasing staff in student services is the requirement that 50 percent of college spending must be used for instruction.
Floyd said the college has been below that percentage for at least the past five years.
"The budget determines how much faculty we can hire," Floyd said. "It used to be, if a faculty member was lost, somehow that person would be replaced. That stopped a long time ago and that ties into the budget."
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