San Juan College board hears update on budget cuts

Administrators say the college needs to cut $1.28 million from its budget for the current school year to address state funding cuts

Joshua Kellogg

FARMINGTON — Members of the San Juan College board heard an update today on how administrators plan to cut about $1.28 million from the college's budget.

Ed DesPlas, the college’s vice president for administrative services, provided revised figures and possible solutions to address Senate Bill 9, which cuts the state's higher education funding by 5 percent.

Gov. Susana Martinez signed the bill into law on Oct. 24. The bill, which was passed by the state House of Representatives on Oct. 6, also includes a 5 percent budget cut for nearly all state agencies.

This isn’t the first cut in state funding for San Juan College this year. In 2016, the college has seen about an 8 percent, or $1.98 million, drop in state funding.

During the board work session today, DesPlas said the college plans to cut more than $1.28 million from its current budget.

He projected Senate Bill 9 will force the college to cut about $1.37 million of its current budget.

In addition to that, the college is also preparing for a possible 1.5 percent reduction in state funding that could be approved during the upcoming legislative session, which starts Jan. 17. That could lead to an additional $348,600 in cuts.

However, the college is expected to receive additional revenue from higher than anticipated property taxes. The college projects an increase of about $435,000 in revenue from property taxes. That is expected to offset a portion of the budget cuts, which led DesPlas to arrive on the $1.28 million figure.

The board suggested several solutions to address the budget issues. Suggestions included making cuts to planned equipment purchases and reducing budgets for programs with significant drops in enrollment.

Another idea was to continue the hiring freeze for college staff. According to DesPlas’ presentation, the college saved about $127,000 in the first four months of the current budget year by not filling positions.

Some suggestions stemmed from a campus-wide meeting on Oct. 28, which DesPlas said was an important step in involving the college community in the process.

Board President Ken Hare said the college is going to have to be strategic with its budget cuts.

"We’re going to have to look at our programs and make sure we are trying to maximize student efficiencies of learning," Hare said after the work session.

The board will vote on proposed budget reductions during its Dec. 6 meeting. A revised budget is due to the New Mexico Higher Education Department by Dec. 30.

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