President Steward says state funding continues to look bleak

November 6, 2015 Latest, News Print Print

State funding for higher educationStudent tuition and fees pay about 45 percent of the cost of an education at OCCC. The rest comes from other sources, mainly state revenue and local property taxes.

Chief Financial Officer John Boyd said OCCC’s revenue comes from three primary sources: state appropriations at $25 million, student tuition at $24 million, and technical education reimbursement at $4 million.

Technical education money comes from ad valorem taxes paid by southwest Oklahoma City residents.

A small portion comes from a combination of other sources, including student store sales and VPAC tickets.

President Jerry Steward said OCCC is expecting a sizable reduction in state funds for fiscal year 2016-17.

Although he avoided stating a dollar amount, Steward noted that OCCC saw a reduction of almost $1 million in 2015-16, when the budget shortfall was half of what is expected next year.

He said he sees no way to cope with the loss other than cutting employees from the payroll.

“Last year, the state of Oklahoma had a $611 million shortfall,” Steward said.

“[From that] higher education received a cut of 3.5 percent. That translated to a cut to OCCC of $891,000.

“This year, all the projections I’m hearing when I talk to legislators is the state’s looking at a $1 billion shortfall.

“If that’s the case, higher education will be cut probably substantially more than 3.5 percent, which means OCCC will be cut substantially more than $891,000. You can see where that leads.”

University of Oklahoma president David Boren has a state sales tax plan to help bring a higher amount of funding to Oklahoma higher education.

Steward said he has no prediction on it yet, but foresees more discussions on the plan in the near future.

The college was able to patch the hole in its budget this year by closing the Aquatic Center, which saved $280,000 a year.

Other cost-saving measures included added modifications to help OCCC conserve energy and money.

Boyd said about $1.2 to 1.3 million a year goes to utilities expenses, depending on the seasons.

“I think (have saved) about $136,000 in utility services when you compare fiscal year 2015 to 2014,” he said. “So we’re really working hard at trying to conserve our energy … .”

Steward said one of his jobs as president is to try and raise money for the school, whether it comes from federal grants or private donors.

“That money has to come from somewhere,” he said. “If we can’t get it from outside sources, I have to go to internal funds and allocate that. For the last four or five years, we’ve had no substantial increase in our funding.

“Since 2008, maybe 2007, we have had to absorb our mandatory cost increases. Every year things go up for software licenses and all the costs associated with the college.

“We’ve absorbed those increased costs in our non-personnel budgets for the past five, six, seven years and we haven’t had to cut any programs, we haven’t had to cut positions, we haven’t had to cut out any functions.

“But we’ve cut the non-personnel cost about all that we can.

“So we have to start planning for if we have a cut — what we’re going to do.”

Steward said if the state revenue picture turns out to be as grim as the projections he’s hearing now, the college may have no choice but to reduce staff.

He said he has advised the President’s cabinet to think of where those cuts could be.

“I’ve talked to the cabinet members and I have asked them to be thinking about if we have to cut a certain percentage of our non-personal budgets, what would you cut?

“Think about if we have to cut positions — what are the positions that you would say we would cut first? That’s very painful.”

Steward said the core mission of OCCC is teaching and learning.

He said he uses the mission as the principle to guide him to make the decisions necessary for the school as to what will be cut from the budget.

“Of course, we’re going to have to reduce our budgets if the state appropriates less money,” he said.

“We’re going to have to reduce our budgets in some way. There’s no realistic chance that the Legislature will give higher education any new money.

“The financial news is not good. Our government leaders say education is the way to increase the value in our state, our paychecks, the number of good paying jobs, the way to elevate the per capita income and make our lives better — but we are actually disinvesting in education.”

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