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Colleges' Budget Restores Raises

Trustees for the Ventura, Oxnard and Moorpark campuses warn that the state could still impose cuts.

September 18, 2003|Amanda Covarrubias | Times Staff Writer

Ventura County Community College trustees have approved a $181-million budget for the 2003-04 school year that restores some of the concessions made by employees in response to the state's fiscal crisis.

The budget, approved Tuesday, includes a $110-million general fund that provides most of the operating expenses for Oxnard, Moorpark and Ventura colleges. Before the state budget was approved last month, district officials struggled to find ways to reduce costs, including cutting the number of classes offered to students, offering early retirement incentives to employees and negotiating cost-cutting concessions with unions.

"We're sort of in a holding pattern for the next few months until we see where the ax falls next," Chancellor Bill Studt said Wednesday, referring to the possibility the state could impose further cuts on education.

"But we were able to present the board with a balanced budget," Studt said.

Trustees on Tuesday restored a half-percent raise for faculty members, which will cost the district about $285,000, and reinstated classified workers' hours at 40 hours a week instead of 37.5. Classified staff members, including secretaries and other support personnel, will receive step and longevity raises this year, costing the district about $1 million.

Faculty members had previously agreed to a salary rollback, and classified employees to a shorter workweek and giving up of raises for a year.

But those agreements occurred when the district was preparing for a 10% to 15% reduction in the general fund budget from last year. The actual decrease was 5.4%.

The two largest cost increases are in utilities and retirement benefits, which rose 28% and 35%, respectively. In real numbers, the sums are $3.7 million and $5 million.

Despite the better-than-expected budget outlook, district officials said there could still be more cuts from the state this year.

"The colleges have done a really good job of minimizing the impact on students," trustee Cheryl Heitmann said Wednesday.

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