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COC spending Measure M

College spends from local coffer while waiting for state funding

Posted: March 4, 2009 2:14 a.m.
Updated: March 4, 2009 4:55 a.m.

College of the Canyons plans to dip into its Measure M funds until $18 million of state funds come through for construction projects.

“The money is coming. We just don’t know when,” said Sharlene Coleal, assistant superintendent for the community college.

State funding was expected to arrive in December, and college officials planned to submit more funding requests before the state put a freeze on the distribution of funds.

“When we get the money back from the state, (we’ll) just continue to use that money to finish out other projects,” Coleal said.

Santa Clarita voters approved Measure M, worth $160 million, in 2006, for projects like the University Center and other expansion projects at the community college.

The shift in funding should not create problems, officials said.

“I think we are probably in the best position of any college that I’m aware of. We’re in an excellent position. We don’t see any delays in construction,” Coleal said.

The college’s Board of Trustees will give the final thumbs-up on whether to use the Measure M funding for the projects during its March 11 board meeting.

Funding will allow the $35 million University Center to be completed in June.

Other construction projects include an expansion of Mentry Hall by 30,000 square feet to add more teaching space to the current college building. The project will cost $10.7 million and should be completed by fall 2010, said Jim Schrage, dean of facilities.

The library will be expanded by 52,000 square feet and will offer English and math labs and a community computer lab, Schrage said.

The expected price tag is $24 million.

The college is in the early stages of planning its 2009-10 budget. So far, layoffs and cuts to classes aren’t in the plans.

“We are not planning to cut classes,” said Sue Bozman, college spokeswoman. “We are planning to offer the same number of sections that we did last year.”

In some cases, the college could cancel classes with low enrollment, only to replace them with classes that have waiting lists of students interested in enrolling.

Retaining last year’s number of classes is in line with Chancellor Dianne Van Hook’s philosophy, especially as other community colleges are cutting classes to save money.

“If we can serve 15-percent more students or 20-percent more students by filling every seat, we should do that,” Van Hook said.

The college has a “fill rate” — a measure of student concentration in classes — of up to 88 percent. Bozman said that’s a high rate but there’s still room for a 12 percent increase without any significant increase in funding.

Board President Joan MacGregor does not foresee major staff changes.

“At this point in time, we’re not anticipating any layoffs in classified or in faculty or administration,” she said.

The college might not hire adjunct professors to teach if certain classes are not scheduled, she said.

The college initiated cost-cutting options in the 2008-09 fiscal year, including $476,000 in ongoing budget reductions within departments and $760,000 in salary savings by not filling several vacancies for the 2008-09 fiscal year.

The college remains conservative to prevent any panicking when the economy slows down, officials said.

“You’re never ready for an economy like this, but I think overall, we have tried to plan the best we can,” MacGregor said.


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