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Positive outlook for fiscal year ’13-’14


Palomar officials hope a voter-approved tax hike will help make ends meet for the 2013-14 fiscal year. Administrators warn of tight budgets, despite a surplus of $13.6 million in reserve; labor unions maintain college officials are being stingy.

The General Fund Operating Budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year is approximately $1.5 million in expenditures, and $1.2 in revenue. With spending expected to exceed money coming in, officials project to be about $3.4 million in debt. The debt will be covered by drawing upon the college’s $13.6 million cash reserve.

The state has allocated an additional $3.2 million in apportionment funding. The additional funds will be used for employee raises and to cover mid-year funding cuts to Palomar by the state due to California’s budget crisis.
Teresa Laughlin, lead negotiator for the Palomar Faculty Federation, said she believes the surplus of cash saved to begin this fall semester is excessive.

“The ending fund balance of $13.6 million is almost three times the state mandated reserve that the district is obligated to hold,” she said in an email statement.

While officials are pleased about the restorative moneys a voter-approved bond called Prop. 30 is generating, there is uncertainty about the future, since Prop. 30 serves only as a temporary band-aid of sorts. The sales tax portion of the funds will expire in 2016, and the income tax for those earning over $250,000 per year, will end in 2018. Although the economy continues to improve, and property taxes are increasing, it is unclear what will fill the void when Prop. 30 expires.

In the face of concerns about how to compensate in the future, this fall semester opened with 181 new class sections for students, and 21 new faculty were hired to meet the state’s Faculty Obligation Number.

Berta Cuaron, vice president of Instructional Services, said she is content knowing that services such as lab hours and tutoring, which were previously being cut back, will become more readily available to students, beginning this semester.

“We’re pleased that we’re back in the position to put our students back in the classroom,” Cuaron said.

Students can expect their tuition cost of $46 per unit to stay as is for the coming year as well. The cost per unit has steadily increased over the past years, and students have mixed reactions when it comes to the cost of their tuition.

“All I hear is that it keeps going up,” Casey Howley, a 19-year-old biology major said.

Ohio native and business major Shauna Kearns, 32, said she disagrees with those who are dissatisfied with California’s $46 per unit fee. “Tuition here is crazy cheap. In Ohio, a community college unit costs about $120,” she said.

When compared to the national average, California’s cost per unit is among the least expensive option for a community college education. Students may be surprised to learn that when they write their tuition check to Palomar College, that money is not kept by the school — instead, it goes to the state — Palomar, and all other community colleges receive funding back from the state based on how many full time equivalent students (FTES) are enrolled.

“Palomar
does a great job of allocating the funds it gets from the state to ensure that
we provide the services that we need,” said Ron Perez, vice president of finance.

The community college’s funding structure is much more akin to the K-12, as opposed to state universities such as Cal State University San Marcos and San Diego State University.

Palomar Student Adam Charron, 42, said he is working on completing his general education requirements and is satisfied with the cost of his education at Palomar. “The price of tuition (at Palomar) is reasonable, compared to other states,” Charron said.

 

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