A "risky" budget balanced on the uncertain passage of a statewide tax measure this fall, and that slashes winter courses, was adopted Thursday by the Board of Trustees.
Superintendent Chui Tsang warned there will be "catastrophic" impacts if Proposition 30 does not pass. If voters reject the November ballot measure backed by Gov. Jerry Brown to increase the sales and income taxes, the college would have to cut $7 million to $8 million from its budget. That would mean immediate down-sizing, he said.
"The budget we’re looking at is not a conservative budget; it’s a risky budget," said Trustee Louise Jaffe.
More than 88 percent of the budget is tied to salaries and payroll. It avoids layoffs and will continue to fund about 250 full-time students whose education the state will not subsidize.
"The college is trying to make sure all regular and permanent employees will continue to have their jobs in the winter with no reduction in pay and no layoffs," Tsang said. "That’s the kind of budget we want to create for our workers."
But even if the tax measure passes, the college will run a $4.02 million operating deficit in the 2012-13 fiscal year. It will end the year in the black thanks to a "strong" fund balance, according to Director of Fiscal Services Chris Bonvenuto.
That fund balance also saved the college last year when it took a $10 million hit from the state, its biggest ever, Bonvenuto said.
If the measure fails, the midyear cut of about $7 million would reduce reserves below the state-mandated threshold, officials said, resulting in the loss of an additional 500 courses.
The End of Winter Session
In 1992, Santa Monica was the first community college to introduce an "inter-session." The six-week session gave students the opportunity to voluntarily enroll in one class between the fall and spring semesters.
Its size has ebbed and flowed in the past 21 years, officials said, from a high of 800 classes to last year's 400.
"Last winter, we over-served 900 students," said student Trustee Michelle Olivarez. "We lost money. We didn’t get paid that from the state."
Olivarez addressed students who spoke during Thursday's meeting to implore the board to reduce salaries of the college's highest paid administrators and to shrink summer offerings to save the winter session.
Associated Students Board of Directors member London Tran said he feared the cuts would set a trend across the state.
"When we make cuts, we have all these other people across the country looking to us," he said.
School officials said other colleges are already on the same track.
"We need to keep thinking of more solutions," Tran said. "We need to open more doors, open more classes."