East Los Angeles College Budget meeting highlights financial woes

By Jeremy Arias

The East Los Angeles College Budget Committee met over Zoom to discuss details about the budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
The committee displayed a table indicating that ELAC’s enrollment is only 93 percent of what it was last year.
Professors and students present in the meeting reported having difficulty with enrolling for classes. Some professors noted that students were wait listing for all sections of a class, while others couldn’t waitlist for classes that reached their maximum capacity.
Child Development professor and American Federation of Teachers chapter chair Michele Benjamin said to the committee that her students were experiencing a lot of confusion when adding their classes.
The committee compared the 2020-2021 fiscal year budget to last year’s expenditures. Last year’s total expenditures resulted in about $128 million, which also included many one time expenses. This year’s fiscal budget is estimated to be about $123 million, five million dollars short of last year’s budget.
While dealing with a smaller budget, the committee also said they had to abide by a mandate set by the district to reduce spending by 2.5 % which translates to about $3 million more in planned reductions.
“This is not a good time to be hurting our students,” Academic Senate President Jefferey Hernandez said in reference to budget cuts. “Never is a good time, but this is an especially bad time,” he said.
The Budget Committee focused on figuring out how they will close the gap in reductions.
The committee listed five rules they obtained from survey data to follow when making budget cuts.
The number one voted for rule in the survey was to keep cuts from students and protect enrollment.
This rule was later specified to include protecting the resources students use, such as the Learning Center and online tutoring, which aim to help retain students and support them in their classes.
The second rule was for ELAC to ensure that all Financial Aid operations were working at full capacity to ensure their services are available to students.
Financial Aid is a crucial service for many students, and can even be critical to the protection of student enrollment and retention.
The third and fourth rule asked that ELAC does not replace any full-time staff unless it is necessary, and to use shared governance to ensure equity and fairness in making the cuts.
The last rule was to defer scheduled projects that don’t benefit students as much, considering most of the instruction is taking place remotely and students will not be on campus.
With students learning remotely, the committee looks forward to saving money on things like the building utilities, printing costs and transportation between ELAC campuses.
The committee acknowledged that despite having some areas to save money, unfortunately, cuts will have to be made.
One of the suggestions made was to reduce the contract with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department by 10-15%.
The committee said the existing contract is too expensive for what is needed on campus, and they considered renegotiating their deal.
The committee also floated the idea of cutting back on student worker overtime, as well as some of the equipment costs, but warned to be lean with these cuts, since many of these services will be needed when students return to campus.

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