Best-case scenario: Pima discusses 2019 budget

By BRIANNA HERNANDEZ

Last year, Pima Community College faced the harsh reality of possible campus closures, program eliminations and tuition hikes when discussion began on the current fiscal 2018 budget.

In December 2016, the nine college officials of the PCC Executive Leadership Team developed three possible budget scenarios that could be adopted for the current fiscal year. The scenarios were created based off predicted revenues, expenses and expenditure limitation.

On June 14, the PCC board voted to adopt budget Scenario 2 for the current fiscal year.

Budget Scenario 2 proposed that the college decrease spending by $5 million per year for the next three years.

It also called for phasing out underperforming programs while including reductions in infrastructure and staffing.

 

Developing a budget

The process of selecting a budget plan spanned six months. Throughout this time, multiple budget outlook presentations were presented to the board and community.

“I can confidently say we have one of the most inclusive budget processes here,” said David Bea, Executive Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration. “I think I counted 26 different presentations last year either with students, faculty or the external community.”

“This is where we are really keeping people updated on any changes that are happening in the budget and how we are folding the feedback into the decision,” he said.

According to Bea, the primary focus when developing a budget is to consider if there has been a significant change or occurrence at the college since the last budget was approved.

“We go into the year asking ‘Are there significant enrollment changes that may impact what the assumptions in the budget were?’ ” Bea said. “Then you make those adjustments.”

Then carryover priorities are taken into account.

“Sometimes the board in the past has said, ‘Well, we understand we have to increase tuition this year, but we really want to focus on keeping tuition at the lowest level possible,’ ” Bea said. “Then you start with looking at the lowest level possible.”

 

Rejected budget proposals

Each of the three scenarios called for decreases in spending; however, each had many differing factors.

Scenario 1 proposed spending cuts while working toward a significant cut of $15 million in 2020.

This scenario brought up the possibility for a $7-per-unit increase in tuition. The possible increase would be the highest tuition increase the college had ever seen. The highest tuition rise at PCC to date has been a $5-per-unit increase.

“Scenario 1 was like there were no effective expenditures limit reductions in the first year,” Bea said. “It was sort of like a hope for the best scenario. Scenario 2 took a ‘Let’s try to reduce it by $5 million for each of the next three years.”

In Scenario 3, PCC would decrease spending by $10 million per year for three years.

If this scenario had been selected, the college would have invested the saved money into campuses and programs, said Lisa Brosky, PCC vice chancellor of external relations.

This scenario also would have involved reductions in staffing and infrastructure with the possibility of a campus closure.

During the budgeting process, Chancellor Lee Lambert said the focus was to keep all campuses operating.

Upcoming budget decisions

Discussions for the fiscal 2019 budget already have begun.

“It’s actually early for the college to be having these discussions,” Bea said, “but it’s because we have pretty good ideas on what our strategic priorities and where we need to go are.”

He noted that there is a possibility that a budget scenario will be created that doesn’t require a tuition increase.

“We are at least going to explore that idea,” Bea said. “Can we do something and put together a budget that doesn’t have a tuition increase?”

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