College prepares for $1.25 million budget cut

Joshua Kellogg
  • The college will host a meeting Friday to solicit ideas on possible budget cuts from faculty and staff.
  • College Board members are projected to vote on a mid-year budget reduction in December.

FARMINGTON — San Juan College is bracing for another budget reduction after Gov. Susana Martinez signed the last of the bills from this year’s special session.

Lucinda Begay, left, and Neldra Castillo participate in a lab exercise during class on June 10 at San Juan College in Farmington. The school is facing another budget reduction in the wake of state funding cuts.

Martinez signed Senate Bill 9 on Monday, making a number of budget cuts effective for state agencies, public school and higher education institutions.

The bill includes a 5 percent cut for nearly all state agencies, a 5 percent budget cut for higher education funding and a drop of about $37.8 million, or 1.5 percent, to the State Equalization Guarantee (SEG) funding for public schools. She also signed Senate Bill 12, which funded the special session.

Senate Bill 9 was passed by the state House of Representatives on Oct. 6, and Martinez had until Wednesday  to sign the bill or it would have been pocket vetoed.

The Daily Times reported that San Juan County school district administrators were predicting a loss of about $1.1 million for their budgets this school year as part of the bill.

Ed DesPlas, the college’s vice president for administrative services, said the 5 percent cut will amount to a loss of about $1.25 million in state funding for the current 2016-2017 school year budget.

He said the college also saw a 2.5 percent cut in state funding earlier this year.

In total, the college has experienced a drop of 7.5 percent, or about $1.85 million, in state funding this calendar year, DesPlas said.

The loss in state funding follows a series of budget reductions the San Juan College Board approved earlier this year for the 2015-2016 budget and the current budget. Board members approved a mid-year budget reduction of about $1.38 million for the 2015-2016 budget during an April 27 meeting.

During that same meeting, a proposed budget of about $51.7 million was approved for the current school year, a reduction of about $2.1 million from the college’s adjusted 2015-2016 budget.

The budget cuts earlier this year were due to a decrease in revenue from tuition, and the oil and gas production tax.

A campus-wide meeting is scheduled for Friday afternoon to solicit ideas on possible budget cuts from faculty and staff members.

The information collected from that meeting will be presented to college administrators, who will develop a proposal to present to the college board during a November work session.

Desplas said board members are expected to vote on the $1.25 million in budget cuts during their December meeting.

“Our strategy is to protect the instructional mission of the college,” DesPlas said about the budget cut. “Protect the classes we offer our students and preserve the core services that lend to student success. Anything outside of that, we’ll be taking a look at.”

A goal for DesPlas during Friday’s meeting is to inform staff and faculty members that the college needs to adjust its operations to remain financially sustainable.

“They need to understand that the $1.25 million that we are losing, it’s not coming back next year,” DesPlas said.

Desplas also believes the college will see another reduction in funding during next year’s legislative session starting on Jan. 17.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.