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Voters Spare Spring Class Cuts at SMC

Budget woes not averted entirely, but with the passage of Proposition 30, the local community college avoids a "fiscal cliff," superintendent tells students and faculty.

Santa Monica College students will return from a class-free winter break to find a full calendar of courses.

The spring semester will see intact 500 classes that would have otherwise been cut had voters not passed Proposition 30, California's ballot measure to hike taxes, primarily to fund education.

"Tuesday’s vote to approve Prop. 30 in California not only helps Santa Monica College and all community colleges avoid a fiscal cliff, it demonstrates how much public education is valued in the state," president Chui L. Tsang wrote this week to faculty and staff.

By a wide margin, 67.9 percent, Santa Monica voters supported its passage.

Proposition 30, however, will not solve all of the college's budget problems. Administrators expect to dip into reserves to recover from a $4.02 million operating deficit this fiscal year.

Additionally, they say they can't afford a 1.25 percent raise sought by non-teaching staff. Those employees are currently negotiating a new labor contract.

The college officials say they did not account for the raises in this year's budget, which was adopted in September. The raises were, however, given to faculty in August. The college is trying to get rid of a "me too" clause that guarantees the non-classified workers the same benefits as faculty.

This year's budget also eliminated a voluntary winter session that will not be restored.

"With stable funding for the next few years (though Prop. 30 will not restore community colleges to pre-recession funding levels), we can turn our full attention to what we do best: working together to provide the best education to our students and community," Tsang wrote in his email.

Proposition 30 was championed by the college district's Board of Trustees, and by students.

Campus clubs got political this year, according the student-run newspaper, the Corsair and encouraged their peers to pass Proposition 30. Members of the Honor Society distributed pamphlets and pins urging "Yes on 30" and a matching banner was strung from a International Students booth.

Club member Jay Park told the Corsair that even though international students aren't eligible to vote, they advocated for the measure as a means to avoid further cuts to education.  “We are also SMC students,” he told the paper.

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