Blog brouhaha, budget discussed at JCCC town hall meeting
Written by Kristin Babcock
Friday, 06 March 2009 16:54
More than 150 people attended a town hall meeting Friday following a week of blogosphere-based uproar at Johnson County Community College, College Boulevard and Quivira Road.
JCCC President Terry Calaway spent much of the meeting discussing the college budget, saying reduction decisions are mostly in order for this year. The college is still sorting out its strategy for next year, he said. The college faces about a $5.6 million to $5.8 million reduction in funding next year, he said. It is also faces a more than $300,000 increase in benefit expenses.
“I think we have to be surgical and continue to maintain the quality of learning at this institution,” he said. “…From a fiscal perspective we’re in about as good of a position as any institution.”
Some options the college is considering are $4 tuition increases for students, freezing part-time positions and continuing the current hiring freeze of non-instructional positions.
“I can say that we are not at all having any conversation today about layoffs,” Calaway said.
Reductions in retiree benefits are also not being discussed, he said.
Final budget approval will take place in August, he said.
By the time the regularly scheduled meeting gathered at the college Friday, the location had been moved to accommodate a larger crowd than originally planned.
Last week, a posting on The Kansas City Star Prime Buzz blog included a list of budget items supposedly under consideration by the college for next year provided by Board of Trustees member Benjamin Hodge. The blog named 14 items under consideration that included options such as salary freezes.
After receiving “numerous employee inquiries,” Calaway sent out a campus-wide message in response.
“This ‘list’ is misinformed and without context and is ignorant of the process the college is following to consider budget reductions,” Calaway stated. “What is true is that the college administration was asked to consider ways the budget could be reduced, since JCCC will face funding challenges in 2009-2010. But since we don’t yet know the total funding reduction, we don’t yet know what adjustments will be necessary.”
Calaway said the list provided by Hodge was formed in a brainstorming session, held during an executive session of a board meeting. At one point the college had looked at the possibility of having to cut 10 percent to 18 percent of its budget based on information heard from the state, he said at the meeting.
Hodge responded later in the week with a release questioning how the board uses the Kansas Open Meetings Act and reasoning behind discussing the list of considered items within executive session.
Calaway said the information contained personnel matters, which deserved executive session.
“We just have a difference of opinion,” Calaway said. “The unfortunate thing with all that is going on around here is this is the issue that has gotten into the debate… The good news is the majority of things (on the list) are things we don’t have to think about right now.”