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Assembly bill would provide fiscal safety net to colleges

Posted: March 14, 2013 6:00 p.m.
Updated: March 14, 2013 6:00 p.m.

A bill making its way through the California Assembly could provide relief to community colleges facing potential mid-year budget woes.

Assembly Bill 283 would require the state to fill in community college budget gaps that arise from shortfalls in property tax revenues.

Many community colleges rely on property taxes, which can vary widely from year to year based on property values.

Such tax revenues can also change throughout the course of the year after a community college has already passed a budget, according to Eric Harnish, interim managing director of government relations and advocacy at the College of the Canyons.

When this happens, community colleges often have to make up the shortfall out of pocket.

AB 283 would require the state to automatically backfill any shortfall in projected property tax revenues out of the state’s general fund.

“This is an important bill for us,” Harnish said Wednesday.

During recent recession years, the college has had to deal with shortfalls of about $170,000 during the 2007-08 school year and $400,000 during the 2008-09 school year due to declining property tax revenue.

Schools with students from kindergarten to 12th grade already have such budget protections, according to Guy Strahl, legislative director for the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica.

Strahl said it is impossible to quantify the effect the bill would have on the state’s general fund, since property tax revenues can vary so much from year to year.

“But this is just one of those burdens we don’t think community colleges should have,” Strahl said.

The bill has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Higher Education for review. Local assemblymen Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, and Steve Fox, D-Palmdale, are members of that committee.

“I am a strong supporter of ideas that support learning and increasing student access to classes,” Fox said Thursday. “However, funding issues need to be given very close scrutiny. This is a measure that will come before me in committee in coming weeks and I look forward to hearing the debate.”

Reached by phone Thursday, Wilk also said he plans to study the bill in greater detail when it reaches the committee.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




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