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Snapshot: Pasadena City College could see loss of up to $18 million in two years

Pasadena City College in Pasadena, Calif.
Pasadena City College in Pasadena, Calif.
prayitno/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

Worst case scenario: Pasadena City College could lose up to $18 million in two years if voters do not approve a November initiative to raise taxes and the economy remains stagnant, university officials said Thursday.

In January the college was hit with $2 million in trigger cuts because of lower than expected sales tax revenues. Then the following month the college learned it would take another $2.85 million in surprise cuts from the state, said Juan Gutierrez, a spokesman for Pasadena City College.

"It's been pretty rough," Gutierrez said. "...In two months we lost nearly $5 million."

And that's on top of the $7 million the college lost in the 2011 budget, he said.

Community college fees, currently $36 per unit, are set by the state. Fees will go up to $46 in the summer. That's up from $26 dollars in 2011. But unlike the California State University and University of California systems, the revenues from those fees are sent back to Sacramento.

In raising fees, the state hoped that the revenue would help augment the budget, said Gutierrez. What it neglected to take into account was that a lot of students are on financial aid and as students qualified for more aid, that meant less revenue for the state, Gutierrez said.

Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed 2012 budget depends on voters approving an initiative to raise taxes in November. If not, education across the state could see a $5.2 billion cut. Pasadena City College specifically would lose about $5 million in funding, Gutierrez said.

"And property taxes are also looked at as being lower, so that's another $1.5 million," Gutierrez said.

The college has had to cut course sections, reducing 45 for this spring and bringing down their total number to 2,354 for a savings of about $300,000, Gutierrez said. The college has also offered a voluntary early retirement incentive to its faculty and staff twice last year and will do so again in June, Gutierrez said. About 100 people retired last year and those positions were not filled unless they were "classroom critical," he said.

"We still have to come up with $2.5 million by the end of this fiscal year, which is June 30," Gutierrez said. The college is having departments not spend money unless it is crticial to classroom instruction.

"We're being very frugal, I guess that's the word."

The college is also relying on its foundation to raise private funds to supplement its roughly $175 million budget. It has a new graduation fund that it is established for donors to help students who are really close to graduating or transferring.

"We need help, we’re in desperate situations," said California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott at a town hall meeting on campus Thursday. "...If you think what's happened at Pasadena City College is isolated, it's not at all. It's happening all up and down the state."

Simon Fraser, a second-year student at Pasadena City College who is also chief justice of the Associated Students, said he wishes educators were more proactive about the budget situation.

"It's like we've resigned ourselves to the cuts, and now they're coming," Fraser said. "I wish we made more of a concerted effort to advocate strongly."

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).