College's board passes $50.2 million budget

Plan calls for county to provide $19.7 million

February 24, 1999|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

The Anne Arundel Community College board of trustees passed a $50.2 million operating budget last night that would keep tuition costs among the state's lowest but require a $19.7 million contribution from the county.

The fiscal 2000 spending plan is 9 percent higher than the current $46.2 million budget and calls for continuation of all instructional programs, as well as more computers and software.

There was little debate last night and no talk of increasing course fees, which have remained the same at the Arnold school for five years.

Gene E. Floyd, chairman of the college's board of trustees, emphasized that keeping tuition rates stable is key to making higher education available to all county residents regardless of income.

"It is our responsibility to determine whether there should be a tuition increase after we see what the County Council gives us," Floyd said before the meeting. "We have to tell them what our needs are. And then we will decide whether we are going to cut the budget or increase the fees."

College President Martha A. Smith said through a spokeswoman that the college's success is measured by how efficiently it spends its money. Sixty-eight percent of the operating budget -- more than other community colleges -- is spent on instruction and academic support.

Smith presented her budget to the trustees this month. It was built around the assumption that John G. Gary would remain county executive and continue to pump money into the college. Floyd said the board met with Gary in October to set the guidelines for the fiscal 2000 budget.

But Gary lost the November election to Janet S. Owens. Owens has said she expects to have only about $30 million in new revenue to spread among county departments, including the school board, which has asked for a $56 million increase over last year.

Owens, who won the election on her promise to improve the county's 117 public schools, has said that the school board will receive the bulk of the money that is available.

Although Owens cannot order a tuition increase, she has suggested to trustees that they raise fees because she does not plan on funding the entire $19.7 million request, which is a 7 percent increase over last year's.

Owens will present her budget plan, which includes money to be given to the school board as well as the college, to the County Council in May.

Last year was the third in a five-year spending plan that the trustees worked out with Gary, who poured $63.7 million into the college during his four-year term. That money kept down tuition costs, allowed an expansion of the campus into Glen Burnie and paid for technology updates. New partnerships with county businesses also were established.

Many County Council members agree with Owens -- the county cannot pay for large budget increases for both the school board and the community college.

While tuition at other Maryland community colleges has gone up as much as 42 percent, large cash influxes from the county and the state have kept Anne Arundel's rate steady since 1994.

Only Wicomico-Worcester Community College charges less than the $63 a credit hour Anne Arundel charges. That is $9 below the state average of $72 an hour.

Pub Date: 2/24/99

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