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College budget still in trouble despite passage of tax measures

Brett Stanley
The Advocate

Although two Oregon tax measures were approved this week by state voters, MHCC’s budget is still not out of the woods.

The success of Ballot Measures 66 and 67 does not bring any new money to MHCC — these were funds already allocated by the Legislature in the 2009 session — although it does provide more stability for the college budget, according to JoAnn Zahn, vice president of finance and administrative services.

“It doesn’t have any impact as far as additional money,” said Zahn. “What we adopted the budget at was $23 million; we’re actually receiving slightly less than that.

“It allows for some stability with what we’ve already been allocated (from the state budget),” said Zahn.

Had measures 66 and 67 failed, the department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development had projected cuts of $1.2 million to $2.8 million from this year’s budget and $925,386 to $1.8 million from the 2010-11 school year.

Ballot Measure 66, which increases taxes on households earning more than $250,000, was approved statewide 54.2 percent to 45.8 percent. Measure 67, which increases the minimum business tax and taxes on corporations, was approved statewide by 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent. More than 71 percent of Multnomah County voters approved each of the two tax increases.

MHCC’s Associated Student Government registered a total of 797 students to vote through its registration drives, according to ASG President Bradley Best. ASG also collected close to 200 ballots in the past week through three unofficial ballot dropboxes, according to Best.

In spite of the tax increases, more cuts to the MHCC budget are already in the works. In an all staff e-mail sent Wednesday by college President John Sygielski, new measures will be proposed to the MHCC District board to balance MHCC’s budget, including “modest” course fee increases and by adding “some or all” of the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) reserve, totaling $1.3 million, to the general fund.

Sygielski said no tuition increases are planned or proposed for spring term.
“The college has taken measures to bring expenditures in line with actual revenues, including immediate strategic one-time expense reductions of approximately $1 million,” Sygielski said in the e-mail.

“At this time, immediate cuts are designed to minimize the impact to students (no recommended tuition increases for spring) and employees (no across the board reductions, layoffs, etc.),” said Sygielski.

“In order to meet current year goals, we will be recommending that some or all of the PERS reserve ($1,328,000) be transferred to the general fund to serve as operating revenue and operating reserve. This one-time allocation may be replenished in the 2010-11 budget cycle,” said Sygielski.

A special board meeting to discuss financial strategy had been scheduled for Thursday night, but was cancelled due to passage of the ballot measures, and because a quorum could not be reached, according to June Jacobs, assistant to the president for strategic initiatives and board relations. The regular monthly board meeting is still planned for Feb. 10.

In an e-mail sent Wednesday, the MHCC Faculty Association thanked members of the faculty and staff who worked toward the passage of the tax measures. Specifically, they thanked math instructor Seth Eikrem who volunteered to help organize campaign efforts. “I definitely had a dog in the fight. But not having (measures 66 and 67 pass) would have been devastating,” said Eikrem.


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