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District Again Takes Slice of Valley College's Funds : Education: Trustees say the smaller, costlier campuses still must be subsidized. A new budget process will be developed and adopted over five years.

March 20, 1992|RICHARD LEE COLVIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After weeks of contentious debate, the trustees of the Los Angeles Community College District have voted to continue tapping Valley College as a source of funds to subsidize the district's smaller and costlier campuses.

But, administrators said, the 20,000-student Van Nuys campus's longstanding role as a wellspring of cash will diminish gradually over the next five years as the district converts to a new budget process designed to address complaints that the present system is unfair.

At issue is the way in which the district divides its budget of about $237 million, much of it based on a state payment of about $3,400 per student.

The trustees voted 5 to 2 early Thursday to adopt the new process of allocating the budget after more than four hours of testimony in which representatives from several of the district's nine campuses pleaded for more money.

At meetings in recent weeks, hundreds of Valley College teachers, administrators and students have complained that the school's buildings are dilapidated, its equipment outmoded and its classes vastly oversubscribed as a result of the district's past budget practices. On Wednesday, they reiterated their plea, complaining that even under the new plan, the campus would be forced to operate on $700 less per full-time student than the district average of $3,400.

"When I have a student in a night class ask why their education is worth less than those of students at other colleges, I have no answer," Valley Faculty Senate President Jack Sterk said.

But representatives from other campuses complained that they also lack adequate funds for buildings, instruction and equipment and have to turn away students from classes. The real problem, several speakers said, is that community colleges in general are underfunded and that campuses are forced to fight bitterly for budget crumbs.

Moreover, they said, under the new plan Valley College is the only one of the nine that will have more funds next year--at least $500,000--than this year, while the others will have to struggle with budget cuts.

Trustee Wallace Knox admonished the Valley contingent to "look at how much you are achieving under the proposal the board has before it. Are you willing to demand even more?"

In the past, Knox and others said, the district's budget was distributed based on "which college could roll its log the hardest" by lobbying for its programs. The new budget philosophy gives greater weight to college enrollments than to lobbying.

But Vice Chancellor Neil Yoneji said an abrupt transition from a political to an objective budget process would cause chaos. "We are moving from one budget allocation mechanism to another," he said, and the subsidy from Valley College to other schools must continue to "ensure an ease in transition."

In the 1992-93 fiscal year, the plan calls for each of the district's nine campuses to contribute some portion of the state funds generated by enrollment to a $10-million, districtwide pool. The money in the pool would then be redistributed to ease problems caused by the change in the budget process.

But only six of the nine campuses come out ahead after the fund shifts, ranging from rapidly growing Mission College in Sylmar, which will get $77,000 more than it puts in, to Los Angeles Trade Technical College, which profits by $721,000.

The other three schools would contribute more than they would receive. Valley College is to contribute $1.6 million, compared to $2.3 million this year, and would get back nothing.

Pierce College in Woodland Hills would lose $800,000, compared to $300,000 this year; and Los Angeles City College is to provide $600,000, compared to $100,000 this year.

By the 1995-96 academic year, the size of the fund would drop to $5 million and Valley College's contribution, presumably, would be about equal to that of Pierce College and City College, budget documents indicated.

Valley College President Mary E. Lee said she recognized that Valley, Pierce and City College should continue helping pay for the operations of other campuses that are smaller or more costly to operate. And she acknowledged that the new budget plan is fairer to her school than those of past years.

But, she said, "we just wanted to get to equity faster."

Adell Shay, co-chairwoman of the budget committee at Harbor College in Wilmington, rejected the concept of an enrollment-based formula for distributing revenues and she urged the trustees not to reduce any college's budget this year.

"It is effectiveness, not efficiency that should quantify our success," she said. "This formula will define our educational policy as one which determines value by size, and worth by numbers."

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