Free dual credit classes raise concerns for budget.
By Wally Perez
The board of trustees approved an operating budget of $359.2 million for the 2016-17 fiscal year, a 9.4 percent increase from the 2015-16 fiscal year.
Diane Snyder, vice chancellor for finance and administration, presented the proposed budget to the board July 12 during a special board meeting and budget retreat.
Snyder said they started this year with an equal revenue and expense budget of $328.3 million, and expect a surplus of $2.2 million at the end the year.
“This is the closest we’ve been to our budget in a long time,” Snyder said.
The base educational and general operating expense budget stands at $336.4 million; but the addition of an auxiliary enterprise budget of $1.9 million; mandatory transfers for Texas Public Education Grants and Revenue Bond Debt Service of $15.9 million; natatorium major repair fund addition of $51,000; non-mandatory transfers for San Antonio River Authority and State Energy Conservation office of $1.6 million; and capital expense budget of $3.3 million bring the total to $359.2 million.
Fifteen percent of the expense budget is set-aside in reserve for next year, which is $53.9 million, and $2.9 million is discretionary, Snyder said.
“We still have a healthy balance based on policy, but we’ve been working it down since years ago with the investments we’ve strategically made,” Snyder said. “We also have triple bond ratings, so we’re very stable and our financials are in good shape.”
According to the approved minute order, the budget was put together with some of the following assumptions:
- An 8.8 percent enrollment growth;
- Five percent tuition increase, funding AN advisor program;
- Flat state appropriations in the second year of the biennium;
- Second year of the $4.5 million state appropriation for constructing a new veterans center at this college, and funds for improvements at the Westside education center and the veterans center at St. Philip’s College;
- No increase in property tax rate;
- Increased tax revenues from an estimated 8.5 percent growth in assessed valuations.
Snyder said one of the strategic priorities was investing in people, which is Step 2 of the budget alignment methodology. The other steps include: identify and communicate the challenge, project manage and ongoing improvement cycles.
Snyder said $9 million has been funded for the upcoming compensation increase the board passed in May, which benefits faculty, staff and administrators, as well as a health care benefit rate increase of $5.9 million in expenses. This includes $2.8 million that the state is supplying.
An increase of 8.5 percent has also been added to tax revenue, which is updated to reflect what the tax assessed valuations are expected to be, Snyder said.
District 7 trustee Yvonne Katz mentioned Sen. José Menendez (D-San Antonio) has sent the board a letter asking about legislative issues that they can send to him for the next session in regards to early college high schools and dual credit programs.
“We have some really good data now on these programs and it shows how more students are staying in school and finishing their associate degrees and four-year degrees,” Katz said. “To me, the state should invest in this and look to provide some remuneration to community colleges and maybe the independent school districts who are cooperating in dual credit programs and early college high schools.”
Currently the dual credit programs are free to students and don’t generate revenue for the district’s budget, so this raised some concern.
District 5 trustee Roberto Zárate added that there are many different models in the state and every college system has a different model which causes issues at the state level in terms of looking at these programs.
“This is going to be one of the main issues at the next legislative session, period,” Zárate said. “The more analysis and return on investment we can show, the better as we move forward with the message.”
In August, the board will submit the operating tax revenue updates for approval upon receipt of the tax rolls from the Bexar County Appraisal District and the restricted and plant fund budgets, Snyder said.