The Oxnard College Foundation is struggling to get out of debt after spending $100,000 on an ambitious fund-raising campaign in which only $66,000 has been raised so far, despite the efforts of a consulting firm and the distribution of slick brochures.
With the hope that the campaign would yield $2 million within three to five years, foundation officials took out a loan in August, 1990, to pay fees to a consultant of nearly $80,000 and to purchase supplies and print the brochures at a cost of about $20,000.
But officials of the foundation and Oxnard College, who now say they may have been overly ambitious, are struggling to raise enough money by fall to pay off $45,000 left on the $100,000 loan, which was refinanced because the foundation was short of cash when it came due in August.
Until the debt is paid, officials say, almost every dollar the foundation collects from donors will be earmarked to pay off the debt--not to expand or upgrade college facilities, as indicated by the brochures.
Until the foundation is out of the red, many improvements--such as new lighting and pavement for dirt parking lots on the college's campus--will be placed on hold, officials say.
The foundation only has about $8,000 in the bank and about $100,000 in pledges, said Larry Calderon, vice president for administrative services at the college. The amount is far short of the $750,000 envisioned to have been collected at this point by foundation officials.
The Ventura County Community College District Board of Trustees has sharply criticized foundation and college officials borrowing the money when there was no guarantee they would meet the $2-million goal.
"In hindsight, it seems very pie-in-the-sky," said Trustee Timothy D. Hirschberg. "They went great guns. . . . Then the recession hit and (the campaign) didn't get off the ground."
After learning of the foundation's action, Hirschberg said, he exercised an option afforded trustees and became a member of the foundation board so he could keep an eye on its operations.
"The Board of Trustees is taking extra care now to make sure the foundation is being properly and responsibly run," Hirschberg said.
Trustee Gregory P. Cole said the Board of Trustees was unaware of what was going on with the foundation until the loan came due in August and foundation officials could not make the payment.
Cole said the trustees have instructed district administrators to draft a policy prohibiting the foundations at Ventura County's three community colleges from going into debt in the future.
The Oxnard College Foundation problems are among a series of woes that have plagued the district over the past two years.
Former Trustee James T. (Tom) Ely was sentenced in September to a year in jail after he was found guilty of stealing $15,000 from the district by padding expense accounts and overcharging for mileage. His wife, Ingrid, was sentenced to perform nearly 500 hours of community service for her role in the crime. Ely remains free so he can undergo treatment for face cancer.
And at Moorpark College, President Stanley L. Bowers was demoted in June after administrators accused him of improperly funneling $23,000 through the school's private foundation to pay a part-time and a retired college employee to administer a special vocational program, even though Bowers maintained he did nothing wrong.
Despite the problems with the Oxnard College Foundation loan, college President Elise Schneider expressed confidence that it will be paid off on time and that the foundation will come out ahead. She said she believes the advice of Community Counseling Service Co., the national fund-raising firm based in New York that the foundation hired, will prove beneficial.
"You've got to spend money to make money," Schneider said. "We made an investment. We believe in the long run it will pay off. We had hoped it would have been quicker. We are still moving forward."
She said the consultants spent about six months at the college. First they surveyed the area and compiled a list of potential donors, she said, and then they helped foundation members solicit donations.
"We think what they did for us was very fruitful," Schneider said. "What they did was enable us to lay the groundwork, which we are following through on."
Schneider said it is too soon to call the campaign a failure.
"We are still optimistic," she said. "People are still interested in giving. The real proof of the pudding on whether it was a bad investment would be in five years."
Although the consultants set the $2-million goal for the college, they were under no obligation to make sure the foundation meets that goal, college officials said.
Edward Lemma, the consultant who helped the foundation launch the campaign, declined to comment on the fund-raising effort when reached at his San Francisco office last week.