Elgin Community College could make cuts to plug $2.7 million deficit
Officials at Elgin Community College are considering cutting expenses to plug a $2.7 million deficit next fiscal year due to state funding shortages.
The college already has curbed unnecessary expenses, such as imposing a travel freeze in December, and is not filling vacancies unless the positions affect safety, security and student success, officials said Tuesday.
Additional cost-saving measures are being considered for the $85.3 million 2017 operating budget, which the college board is expected to approve at its June 14 meeting.
Among those are changing the policy for granting tuition waivers for senior citizens, eliminating nonessential out-of-state travel, food and beverages for internal meetings and training, deferrable projects, and other expenses that do not affect normal operations.
"This is the first time in the history of the college that we have been in this predicament," said Sharon Konny, ECC vice president of business and finance. "We are looking at every expense and evaluating every area of the college to consider how we can operate more efficiently. We are confident that we will be able to propose a balanced budget for next fiscal year."
With the state budget stalemate approaching its 11th month, two suburban community colleges -- College of Lake County in Grayslake and Harper College in Palatine -- have issued layoff notices for some workers due to funding shortages.
College of Lake County eliminated 20 jobs in March, while 29 Harper employees will be let go June 30.
"We haven't gotten to that point yet," Konny said. "I don't know what the state's going to do. We're doing absolutely everything we can to make sure there is a minimal impact on students."
Gov. Bruce Rauner last month signed an emergency funding bill of $600 million, which will be divvied up among community colleges, state universities, the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora, and a key state scholarship program for low-income students.
Yet, ECC officials anticipate receiving only $1.4 million next year -- 27 percent of the revenues expected for the 2015-16 academic year.
"We were expecting to receive this year a little over $5.6 million, and we've received the $1.4 million," Konny said.
Beginning this summer, ECC will grant tuition waivers only to students who meet the requirements of the Illinois Senior Citizens Courses Act. To qualify, students must be 65 or older, must meet income requirements, and be enrolled in a regularly scheduled credit course. Previously, students 60 or older qualified and income was not a factor. This move, along with sunsetting some trustees' tuition waivers (scholarships) over the next three years, should save roughly $225,000 in the 2017 budget, Konny said.
This academic year, 245 students received $215,898 in ECC Foundation scholarships. In fiscal year 2015, 258 students received the trustees' scholarships for $328,949, and 303 students received senior citizen tuition waivers for $192,563.
Officials are urging students in financial need to visit the financial aid office to apply for scholarships through the ECC Foundation, a nonprofit organization unaffiliated with the college which awards more than 200 scholarships yearly.
Officials also anticipate saving $400,000 yearly through more favorable energy contracts, and another $1 million by deferring nonessential maintenance and capital projects for fiscal year 2017.
"These are challenging times for every public institution in the state of Illinois," ECC President David Sam said. "The longer this financial crisis continues, the more difficult it becomes to operate at the economic level that we have in previous years. However, we are making sure that whatever choices we make, our students will be the least impacted."
Revenues are expected to increase with tuition going from $119 to $125 per credit hour this fall, while enrollment declined 3 percent.
On the expenses side, faculty salaries will increase 2.7 percent on average effective Jan. 1 -- includes lane and step movement on the 2016 salary schedule (no base salary increase), and longevity. Salaries for support staff, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union members, and administrators will increase by 4 percent effective July 1. Employee benefits are anticipated to increase 5 percent, per budget documents.
ECC's proposed budget for the 2016-17 academic year can be viewed at elgin.edu.