By Jordan Megenhardt and Jessica Sharman
Due to the uncertainty of state funding cuts, Pima Community College will freeze staff and administrative hiring.
In an e-mail to PCC employees Feb. 25, Chancellor Roy Flores said he was freezing all staff and administrative hires unless applicants have already been invited to interview. The freeze will not affect new faculty hires.
Flores earlier put a hold on discretionary spending and administrative travel not already approved.
The state is facing a deficit of nearly $1.2 billion, and legislators may cut funding to PCC by as much as $3.2 million this fiscal year.
“I was hopeful that the governor and the legislative leadership would quickly reach agreement on this year’s revised budget to close the $1.2 billion shortfall in revenues. I regret to inform you that no agreement has been reached,” Flores wrote in his e-mail.
“Given the uncertainty at this late stage in the fiscal year, it is prudent to take additional measures to safeguard college finances.”
At a Board of Governors meeting Feb. 19, Flores and Executive Vice Chancellor for Finance David Bea had expressed hopes that state legislators might exempt higher education from budget cuts.
Nevertheless, both men said they expect state budget woes to continue.
“Slow revenue growth, coupled with increases in expenditures mandated by federal and state law, will likely result in significant budget deficits in each of the next three years,” Flores said.
Current projections predict a state deficit for fiscal year 2009 of $1.7 billion. PCC could face state funding cuts of $3.5 million.
In addition, revenue from local property taxes is expected to drop due to the poor housing market. Experts predict the down-turn will last for several years.
Bea said a lag effect in property tax collections means that PCC is OK this year, but “next year it will slow down dramatically.”
Using chart comparisons during a slide presentation, Bea said state appropriations have decreased from 22.1 percent of the budget in fiscal year 1997-98 to 15.4 percent in fiscal year 2007-08.
PCC made up the difference through property tax revenue, with the percentage going from 51.2 percent to 58.8 percent in that 10-year timeframe. The percentage covered by tuition dropped from 25.8 percent to 24.2 percent.
Bea also mentioned potential statewide ballot initiatives in November that would roll back tax levies or property tax valuations, and set caps on tax rate growth.
Board member Brenda Even suggested sending letters and e-mails to state legislators to share views on proposed PCC budget cuts.
“We urge students and employees to speak up as citizens and let them know where you stand on this issue,” she said.
In his e-mail to PCC employees, Flores said he and his staff are exploring strategies to accommodate lower revenue projections.
“Unless the economy deteriorates well beyond all projections, new faculty hires and instruction are exempted from consideration for cuts,” Flores wrote. “Priority will also be given to activities related to student success.”
Flores said administrators will reduce spending to match the size of state budget cuts once they are finalized.
“It is important to note that despite any budget setbacks, we will continue to improve services and provide responsible stewardship,” he wrote.