As San Fernando Valley community college officials braced for budget cuts ordered on Thursday, they faced the added frustration of not knowing exactly what the form and extent of the cuts will be.
But all of the administrators and student leaders interviewed Thursday said they are worried about what the cuts will mean in a school year already under way.
"I'm extremely concerned about any cuts at this college," said Lowell Erickson, president of Mission College in San Fernando.
Whereas David Wolf, president of Pierce College in Woodland Hills, said he believes the school "can manage without damage to our instructional program," he wonders whether his and other colleges can make it through this academic year without enough classroom and office supplies.
$8.2-Million Budget Cut OKd
Trustees of the Los Angeles Community College District voted to lop about $8.2 million from this fiscal year's budget, bringing it down to $216.3 million to be shared among the system's nine colleges, including three in the Valley. The trustees were moving to keep the district out of debt, and the general targets chosen ranged from classroom and office supplies to cafeteria services and student newspapers.
The board of trustees approved budget cuts in broad categories, such as supplies. Decisions on how the cuts will be parceled out among the colleges will be made by the district's central administrators beginning next week. Administrators at each school will be consulted by district planners before the cuts are made final over the next few weeks.
Student leaders in the Valley complained that the board did not seek their opinions. They called the cuts a "losing game" that would accelerate the tumbling of the district's enrollment by reducing services.
"People are getting fed up with the cuts," declared Frank Tullo, student body president of the third area school, Valley College in Van Nuys. Tullo predicted that reduced services will divert students to community colleges outside the Los Angeles system, such as Santa Monica City, Pasadena City and Moorpark colleges, and College of the Canyons in Valencia.
Student leaders also criticized the district's decision to raise semester parking fees from $10 to $15 and worried that student newspapers would be forced to publish less frequently or reduce size.
Kelly Lynn, editor-in-chief of the Roundup, the Pierce weekly, said the paper may lose half its $10,000 budget.
"For them to try to save money by cutting the paper is ludicrous," said Lynn, noting that the publication is produced by an unpaid staff of editors and reporters. "The students won't be getting all the news they need."
Supply Budget Slashed
Pierce President Wolf said the cuts do not endanger faculty positions at his school but may force the layoff of one clerk. He predicted that district officials will have to step in later with additional funds to replenish instructional and office supplies. The trustees voted to slash the supply budget by $636,000 districtwide.
Wolf said he is appealing to the Pierce College Foundation, a group of alumni and area business leaders, to raise money for equipment and supplies.
The trustees also removed $250,000 in maintenance funds, which will prolong the repair of computers, copiers, typewriters and automobiles at district campuses, officials said. About $200,000 also was cut from cafeteria services.
The fiscal trimming is expected to be distributed among the colleges based on their current budgets and enrollments.
"In general, it's an equitable and across-the-board kind of thing," said district spokesman Norm Schneider.
That is bad news for Mission's Erickson, who said the cuts may have "very serious consequences" for the school's operations. Mission, which until Thursday had been budgeted to receive $4.5 million, is the smallest college in the Los Angeles district and thus financially vulnerable, Erickson said. Enrollment has dropped at Mission by 25% in three years and several faculty members had already been transferred to other colleges.
Last year, an estimated 40,600 students, 40% of the district total, attended the three community colleges in the Valley. Pierce had 19,286 students, Valley counted 17,973 and Mission tallied 3,353. As the school year began Aug. 19, officials predicted that enrollment in Los Angeles community colleges would be down by 13% from the previous fall.