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Gavilan College will cut 45 classes out of its spring semester
offerings in response to California’s $30 billion budget shortfall,
the school announced Monday.
Gavilan College will cut 45 classes out of its spring semester offerings in response to California’s $30 billion budget shortfall, the school announced Monday.

The cutbacks will save the community college $120,000 during the next semester, barely making a dent in the college’s total forseeable debt of nearly $1 million. The savings comes largely from the reduction of part-time teacher salaries the school had budgeted for.

“The (proposed) budget cuts are big. This is not a time for wait and see. We need to start taking steps now,” said Steve Kinsella, incoming president of Gavilan College.

Unlike their part-time counterparts, job security for the school’s full-time teachers is assured, said Kinsella, who will take over for interim President Marty Johnson on Jan. 1.

“Cutting part-time staff is the only real flexibility we have. Hiring and releasing part-time staff is always done on a semester-by-semester basis,” Kinsella said.

The $120,000 in savings for Gavilan represents just a fraction of the school’s $17 million-a-year general fund that started off the year anticipating $920,000 of deficit spending.

Gavilan College has $3.4 million in its reserve funds to cover that gap. However, this year’s mid-year cuts and the outlook for future state budgets has administrators scrambling for other ways to cut costs now.

“We had a plan that could handle deficit spending for a year or two, but the state budget looks like it will be in trouble for maybe three, four or five years,” Johnson said. “We’re in a lot better shape than a lot of community colleges.”

Gavilan College department heads will discuss today which courses to cut from the spring schedule that begins Jan. 23 and runs through May. None of the department heads contacted by The Dispatch returned phone calls before deadline.

Complicating matters for students, spring semester registration began Dec. 9, meaning some of the courses which students have enrolled for may not be available. To save precious funds, Gavilan had already canceled all of its classes for a special winter session scheduled to run during the holiday break in December and January.

“We’re putting everything on the table and starting with cuts that do the least damage to students first,” Gavilan School Board President Laura Perr said.

Perry, a 12-year trustee who was on the board in the early ’90s when the state implemented similarly drastic cuts, said the college will likely call an emergency school board meeting this week at which trustees would approve the cuts. The school would contact, typically by phone, students who have already registered for any soon-to-be-canceled courses.

“I’m not a big fan of the state legislature. Every time there is a budget crisis, education is the first to get cut,” Perry said. “They said they would pay us back when they took money from us to balance their budget in the ’90s, and they never have paid up.”

School officials do not anticipate raising tuition at Gavilan, since revenue from any locally imposed fee hike would be offset by a corresponding reduction in state funding. The state, however, could still decide to raise student fees to help balance the education budget.

Johnson estimated that each unit of instruction costs $130 to deliver. In-state students are charged $11 per unit.

To make scheduling easier on students planning to graduate this spring, the school will try to leave courses untouched that are required for graduation or have no elective options, Gavilan College spokesperson Jan Bernstein Chargin said.

“I’m not too worried about it. I’m not graduating this year. I’m a freshman,” Student Senator Ruby Chiu said. “I registered already, and I have a pretty full schedule. I guess I’ll check with the office this week to see if my classes are still there.”

Gavilan offers more than 500 sections a semester, said Johnson. A cut of 45 classes represents roughly 9 percent of its curriculum. Gavilan typically cuts less than 10 courses each semester, Johnson said, due to low enrollment.

Kinsella said he would meet with school administrators over the holidays to discuss ways of bringing revenue and expenditures “back in line.”

“That will take a couple of months. What I’m looking to do is get the support and understanding from staff before I go to the board,” Kinsella explained.

In late October, Kinsella was hired by the Gavilan School Board for his extensive financial background. That expertise, which ranges from public accounting to international auditing, is being called on early for Kinsella, who currently is interim president at Mission Community College in Santa Clara but has been doing double time in recent weeks learning about Gavilan’s budget and other operations.

Kinsella was the dean of business services at Gavilan four years ago.

Gov. Gray Davis is proposing a $215 million reduction for the 108 community colleges in California. The total amount is comprised of three segments:

– A $97.5 million cut for the community colleges’ total budget in the current year, a 3.66 percent across-the-board cut for all programs.

– A predicted $38 million shortfall in local property taxes, which would not be offset by state funds and therefore result in a $38 million reduction in current-year funding.

– An $80 million reduction in apportionments related to concurrent enrollments of kindergarten through 12th-grade students who are also taking courses at community colleges.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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