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Community College Budget Slashed : L.A. District Chops $8.2 Million; Enrollment Decline Cited

September 06, 1985|PAMELA MORELAND | Times Staff Writer

After a marathon 11-hour meeting, the Los Angeles Community College District on Thursday slashed $8.2 million from its 1985-86 budget and began making preparations for what may be even deeper cuts next year.

To reduce the district's budget to $216.3 million, trustees voted to lay off 53 non-teaching employees, increase student parking fees to $15 a semester and, for the first time, charge campus employees $20 a semester to park.

Cafeteria service may be eliminated at some schools, campus newspapers will be smaller and will appear less frequently, and there will be little money to replenish classroom supplies. Few instructors or clerical workers will be hired during the year.

"We are way past cutting the fat," said board member Lindsay Conner. "We're cutting deep into the bone and muscle and it's hurting all of us."

The nine-college system has been on the financial ropes for several years. Enrollment at the two-year institutions has declined to an estimated 89,000 students this year from 139,168 students in 1981.

Such declines have produced the budget crisis because financing of community colleges is based largely on enrollment. Because of the drop in students, the district has lost approximately $33 million in state money during the the last four years, district officials said.

During the board meeting, which adjourned in the early morning hours Thursday, two of the most controversial budget-cutting proposals were defeated. Those proposals would have increased the district markup on textbooks sold in campus bookstores and imposed an unpaid furlough on 1,500 classified employees.

At one point during the extended debate, nine student body presidents offered to loan the district $300,000 out of Associated Students Organization funds. Although board members thanked the students for the offer, they pointed out that the money would not stave off many of the proposed cuts.

While the trustees agonized over the cuts in this year's budget, Tom Fallo, vice chancellor for business operations, warned that the district's dwindling enrollment could result in an additional $10.7-million decline in revenues next year.

Fallo told the board that to balance the 1986-87 budget, the district may have to consider closing some facilities and laying off faculty and administrators. Additionally, he said, some courses may have to be eliminated next year and such programs as nursing and journalism may be offered only on one or two campuses.

"We have sold our stocks and bonds, we have eliminated our construction budget, we have depleted our reserves," Fallo said. "We have eliminated most of our flexibility."

District officials blame the precipitous drop on a lack of state support for the community college system and the 1984 imposition of a $50 tuition fee. Students say that a cumbersome financial aid system and paltry course offerings have soured their attitudes toward the system.

Los Angeles' community college system has been in precarious financial shape all year. In the spring, when the district faced the possibility of failing to meet its payroll, it borrowed $5 million from Los Angeles County. That emergency loan must be repaid by Oct. 1.

Trustees had hoped that the state would loan it $5 million for the emergency loan repayment, but Gov. George Deukmejian vetoed the loan because of what he called the district's "failure to exercise prudent fiscal management."

"The central problem of this budget and the 1986-87 budget . . . is one of finding support for retrenchment," Chancellor Leslie Koltai said.

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