College holds back part of operational budget, waits for spring

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Information technology director said cuts make for smarter spending.

By Sergio Medina

smedina104@student.alamo.edu

This fall, this college is holding back 30 percent of its operational budget from fiscal year 2018-19 to surmount potential budget limitations in spring.

Every fiscal year, Sept. 1-Aug. 31, the college receives a budget, this year of about $65 million.

In an interview Oct. 8, budget officer Larry Rosinbaum said 84 percent of that amount goes to salary and benefits; about 9 percent goes to operational expense; 5 percent goes into chargebacks from the Alamo Colleges and 2 percent goes into capital, which is dedicated to construction and the purchase of equipment and furniture.

“Our district office is the one that decides how much money we’re going to get every year,” Rosinbaum said. “And so the money comes to us and then we have to decide how to allocate it among all the different organizations here.”

He said the 30 percent decrease in the operational budget amounts to approximately $860,000.

However, he said calling it a cut is inaccurate.

“Dr. (Robert) Vela decided to hold back 30 percent of the budget, internally — here at SAC — not at district,” Rosinbaum said.

“It wasn’t a cut, it was a holdback,” he said. “I mean, we still have those funds. The reason he decided to do that is because of the uncertainty of what’s going to happen.”

Factors such as flat enrollment, lower state funding, dual credit and higher expenses all contribute to a lower budget for the college, he said.

An example Rosinbaum provided on expenses are the free college classes that were provided last summer under the Summer

Momentum Plan, which granted students who earned 18-24 credit hours during the past year to get three to six free credit hours in summer 2018.

He said administration will revisit the issue in spring to evaluate the situation, possibly dispersing withheld funds to departments.

Rosinbaum added that there are some areas where the budget cannot be cut such as waste removal and office leases. Faculty and staff pay is not affected by the holdback, either.

“We have contracts; we can’t cut in those areas,” he said.

In spring, tuition will rise an additional $13 per credit hour. Rosinbaum said this should help alleviate problems with budget.

With 47 open computer labs throughout this college, the office of technology services is a department that continuously oversees matters that concern students’ proper access to technology and classroom preparedness with devices such as projectors.

For Usha Venkat, director of information technology, the holdback in budget is both a good and a bad thing.

“Technology budget is a key component of the overall college budget,” she said in an interview Oct. 10. “Pretty much everyone — whether it’s students, faculty or staff — they use technology in some form or the other.

“One of our key goals within our department is to make sure that the technology is secure and reliable,” she said.

With budget in mind, Venkat said 20 percent of computers on campus must be replaced every five years with more modern models, retaining integrity in security and dependability. Additionally, machines have to be repaired when technical problems arise, and that does not follow a schedule.

The department also ensures there is a proper stock of hardware such as computers, projectors, printers, TVs and repairs thereof. The department also manages warranties and software licenses such as from Microsoft Office.

Thus, where budget holdbacks and cuts were concerned, Venkat maintained a neutral stance on the issue.

“I’m going to say it’s a good situation and a bad situation,” she said. “I know people will never say that when they get budget cuts.”

Venkat said while the situation limits the extent resources can be spent within the department, a lesser budget makes for better cost-effectiveness and deeper research into expenditures.

“We are looking into how we can upgrade a computer, for example, without having to spend too much money,” she said. “I talk to my leadership team literally on a weekly basis, ‘what can we do?’ and I get some good ideas from my team. One of those ideas: One of our own technicians said, ‘Instead of replacing on the fifth year, why don’t we upgrade components within the computer like, let’s put a faster hard drive or let’s put more memory into the workstation and that can make a computer last for a longer period and perform at a faster rate.’ So that’s something that we’re looking at right now.”

Another idea, Venkat said, was to get more thin-clients, which are centralized computing units and servers transmitting through many monitors. These units are half the price of a regular desktop computer, she added.

Venkat said it is not only her department that would be affected by budget limitations, but the college as a result.

“I can tell you our administration has been really good,” she said. “They all understand the value of budget within our department.”

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