Weekly Update – January 23, 2011

on January 23, 2011 in Weekly Update

Dear Fellow San Jacinto College Employees –

Over the past few days, we have heard the budget deficit news from Austin plus, we have seen the first rendition of House Bill 1 (HB1).  On the state deficit side, the comptroller released a shortfall number of $26.8 billion. We have also heard differing opinions about whether or not the amount is accurate and whether or not the calculations are correct.  In addition, the “new” numbers being discussed are all over the place – some have increased and some have decreased that deficit. Adding to these dimensions are clear directives about no new taxes and debates about whether or not fees are taxes, whether or not legalized gambling is a solution, the use or no use of rainy day funds, etc. Discussions and debates are focused on solutions for achieving the required balanced budget, but there are significant distracting elements, including the proposed closing of four community colleges.

Since the release of HB1, I have been in contact with the Texas Association of Community Colleges, the Community College Association of Texas Trustees, and several of our Legislators. Be assured that the various community college associations are united and will mount a solid campaign to influence our Legislators. Yes, I am concerned about the State’s budget issues and the effect of those budget decisions on all types of services and programs throughout the State of Texas. And yes, I am most concerned about how those decisions will affect San Jacinto College. With the present HB1, San Jacinto College would lose nearly $9.5 million in state funding per year which is in addition to the $2.9 million reduction from the State for this year. We are a long way from a final decision, but we need to understand the details of what we are facing.

At an economic development banquet on Friday evening, I spoke with several of our Legislators, and each reassured me that HB1 was not the solution. They indicated the funding situation would get better, but they also warned that the budget situation would be very difficult for everyone in Texas, including community colleges.

It is important to remember that the introduction of HB1 is the first step in a long and winding legislative process. Many hours of debate and rhetoric will precede the gavel falling on sine die come May 30, 2011 – or whatever that future date will be, due to anticipated special sessions.  One of my colleagues described the legislative process as a nine-inning baseball game that runs into overtime. There are many people sitting on the sidelines and in the dugout watching the action. There will be some really bad plays and hopefully some good ones. There will be a few downtimes but mostly plenty of nail biting, and eventually, that overtime period will end. Though I am not sure that is the best analogy, it does help illustrate that we have a long stretch of time and many changes ahead of us in this legislative process before we know the final score.  

Our Strategic Leadership Team (SLT) began discussing how to approach developing the budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year (begins on September 1, 2011) several months ago, and there has been a budget workshop with the Board of Trustees. I have communicated to you over the past months that the number of state dollars coming to San Jacinto College will be substantially less than we have this year.  The problem is that we don’t know how much less, but we are preparing for multiple scenarios. The short, clear message is this: every one of us will need to tighten our belts and be prepared for a bumpy ride. The hole left by the shrinking State dollars will require significant adjustments in our spending patterns.  Before we start specific budget reduction discussions, I want to assure you that our desired end result is to maintain sufficient resources in key areas to deliver on our four strategic goals: Student Success, P-16 Pipeline, Workforce & Economic Development, and Our People.   I also want to assure you that the heart of San Jacinto College is our people, and we will do everything possible to preserve and maintain our people. While we will have to cut dollars, that does not translate automatically into cutting people.  Even with those assurances, I must let you know that this will not be an easy time; rather, it will take all of us pulling together as a college community and developing solutions to do our work more efficiently and effectively. It will require that we consider how to eliminate waste, develop cost effective processes, and search for opportunities to bring in additional revenues. 

As we go through these next months, the members of the SLT and your fellow employees are going to need your help with this budget challenge.  As a first step, I ask each of you to assist in the budget process by giving us your ideas for budget reductions and cost containment. In order to gather this input, the following email has been established: costcuttingideas@sjcd.edu. Email your ideas to this account so that they can be considered in our budgeting process.  We want to ensure that the vital and necessary elements are in place to provide instruction and support services to our students, and we want to ensure that suggestions are constructive and based on our values.  At first glance, thinking of ways to cut budgets and maintain services may seem a difficult task, but as we think of creative and innovative ways to decrease costs and streamline processes, good ideas will result.  All employees can contribute, as we each have a unique understanding of how our departments and divisions work. 

In closing, I would like to leave you with this quote from Abraham Maslow: “We are not in a position in which we have nothing to work with. We already have capacities, talents, direction, missions, [and] callings.”  This is true of San Jacinto College.  We have plenty to work with and at the core of that is you – our people.  

Have a great week and stay tuned for more news from the legislative front!



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