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RCC presents austere budget for 2007-2008

Continuing to ratchet down spending, Rogue Community College has proposed a 2007-08 budget that will trim half a percent from the current year's budget.

However, officials note that the current budget — which included freezes on hiring and spending on materials and supplies — isn't necessarily an accurate representation of how the school should operate.

"We looked at 2005-06 as a baseline," said Lynda Warren, RCC's chief financial officer, dean of student and college services and dean of the Table Rock campus.

From that starting point, officials eliminated 32 jobs, furloughed a diesel technology program, modified an electronics program, reorganized how student services are provided and whittled away at its reserve fund.

"This is a realistic, conservative budget," Warren said of the proposed $26.9 million spending plan unveiled last week.

While the proposed budget cuts just $146,000 — half a percent — from the current budget, it's down nearly $1.4 million, almost 4.9 percent, from 2005-06 spending levels. If operations had continued without the belt-tightening of the past two years, spending likely would have gone up about $3 million from the 2005-06 level, RCC President Peter Angstadt said.

In his budget message, Angstadt noted that the college has been gathering and implementing cost-cutting ideas from students, employees and the community over the past two years. Still, officials anticipated that spending would outpace revenue in the coming year unless they made more drastic changes. They set to work on the proposal in September.

"The budget presented here represents the result of this work," Angstadt wrote.

The proposed budget projects that roughly $8.3 million, or nearly 31 percent of RCC's revenue will come from the state, up from $7.9 million, or 29 percent, in the current budget. Warren notes, however, that overall state funding for community colleges has climbed 9 percent, while RCC's state funding has rebounded just 5 percent because of the formula used to distribute state money.

The proposed budget also shows tuition will provide a smaller percentage of revenue, about 28.6 percent compared with 30 percent in the current budget. It estimates tuition revenue in 2007-08 at about $7.7 million. The college raised tuition $2 per credit hour, but shows a dip in tuition revenue because it changed the model it uses to predict revenue, Warren said.

"Our 2006-07 tuition projections were off," she said. "We've readjusted our model."

Local sources, including property taxes, will provide nearly $9.5 million, or 35.25 percent, of the anticipated revenue in the proposed budget. Transfers and other sources will provide about $636,000 and a reserve of at least $800,000 will roll over from this year's budget.

On the spending side, personnel remains the largest budget category, accounting for 57.6 percent of the total. Proposed personnel spending is nearly $15.5 million, down from $16 million under the current budget with its hiring freeze and down from $16.4 million in 2005-06.

Despite those cuts, other personnel expenditures, which includes health insurance premiums and payments to the state's Public Employees Retirement System, have remained flat over three fiscal years at about $5.8 million.

Transfers, including unemployment payments for people laid off, will increase more than $200,000 to about $564,000 in the proposed budget.

Materials and services, holding fairly steady at about $4.4 million, account for about 16.2 percent of spending.

The college's contingency reserve is set to dwindle to $600,345, or 2 percent of its total budget, under the proposal.

"That dwindling reserve is a big concern," Angstadt said, noting that many budget officials recommend a reserve of 5 to 10 percent.

The RCC budget committee will have its next hearing on the budget May 15, then forward the approved document to the college's board for final adoption on June 19.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail aburke@mailtribune.com.