Cut proposed in HCC budget request

April 27, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Sun Staff Writer

Howard Community College employees will pay more for their medical insurance and evening students will not get expanded financial aid services if the County Council goes ahead with a proposed $200,000 cut in the school's $23.6 million operating budget request for next fiscal year.

Other areas, such as staff development and entrance testing for students, also would be hit hard, said Dwight Burrill, the community college's president.

He called the $200,000 cut proposed by County Executive Charles I. Ecker a serious blow to the college, even though Mr. Ecker is still proposing to give the college $525,000 more than it got in the current fiscal year's budget.

"We are dealing with it," Dr. Burrill said. "But it affects the quality of the institution, the quality of the learning that's going to take place."

As part of a his plan for an "austere" operating budget for the county, Mr. Ecker proposed the $200,000 cut in the community college's 1994-1995 operating budget request two weeks ago. The request already called for a $5 per credit increase to meet rising costs.

"We're giving them an increase in their budget, so I look at that as an increase in the budget," Mr. Ecker said. "These are still difficult financial times, and you have so much money. I still think they will be able to provide a quality education with the funds provided."

Mr. Ecker also has proposed cutting about $4.4 million from the Board of Education's $221.8 million operating budget for elementary and secondary schools in his $314.5 million operating budget proposal for the next fiscal year.

The County Council is scheduled to vote on his budget on May 23.

HCC could have raised roughly $150,000 by increasing tuition an additional $2 per credit hour, on top of the $5 already requested, but the college's board of trustees vehemently rejected that possibility.

"It's been a concern of ours for a long, long time that we not continue to push every incremental increase in the direction of the students," said Ronald Carlson, who heads the board. "We felt we had to put the brakes on. Already, we had a tuition increase of $5, which was significant."

A credit at the school cost $66 in the past year, the second-highest community college tuition in the state, behind Prince George's Community College. In 1986, a credit cost $35, Mr. Carlson noted.

"The community college wants to ensure that we are not presenting any financial access problems, that the school is available for everyone," Mr. Carlson said. "Each time we come in with a tuition increase, that means, potentially, there may be a student who may not have access to the education they want."

To make up for the expected $200,000 cut in the budget request, the community college would take out $100,000 earmarked for the auxiliary services fund, which is used for bookstore and cafeteria maintenance and renovations.

An additional $30,000 would come from increases in the amount school employees pay for HCC's health insurance program. Those increases would range from $3.50 for individual coverage to $30 every two weeks for family coverage, depending on the type of plan.

The remaining $70,000 would come from reductions in such services as helping evening students find and apply for financial aid, staff development and entrance testing.

"We had been through the budget, and we had fought to keep them in, because they're extremely important to the institution," Dr. Burrill said.

He blamed the financial pinch on declining state aid, which accounted for 40 percent of the community college's budget in 1981 and 17 percent now. "The county government has been very supportive in picking up the state decreases," he said.

But he added, "The college must find some other way to increase the revenue to operate. If we don't, we're going to price the student out of the marketplace or destroy the quality of the institution."

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