PCC and other California Community Colleges are facing possible spending cuts due to the budget deficit in California.

“Right now we are in pretty good shape but there are storm clouds in the horizon,” said board of trustees member Jim Osterling. “the state has given us a heads up and plenty of lead time to be able to do our best we can and adjust for that.”

The run of budget surpluses California has been enjoying in recent years has come to end.

Recent analysis by the Legislative Analyst’s Office which provides state officials with non-partisan budget forecasts predicts the state is heading towards a $22 billion deficit for the 2023 fiscal year. Subsequently many departments within the state are expected to receive a budget cut, with the California Community Colleges as one of those.

“They (the government) have warned us that if the state income taxes go down and they will without a question, it’s going to impact funding for education“ Osterling said “This current year that we are in we are not looking at any real serious cutback of any sort, but next year we are already getting a heads up that the money coming to us is going to decline.”

Osterling explains that the budget is directly related to manpower, which makes 85%-90% of the annual operating budget and may be affected by the decrease in resources.

On January 10 California Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled his proposed budget plan for 2023-2024. While he did not address community colleges’ budget in particular during his presentation, the written format of the governor’s proposal has listed a few areas of focus.

Of the $297 billion the state will have for the upcoming fiscal year, 7.8% is devoted to higher education, which translates to approximately $23 billion. Of those $23 billion, about $17.5 billion is allocated to California’s community colleges this year, which is around 3.0% or $531 million less than 2022.

PCC is currently funded using a state protection provision called Hold Harmless. Hold Harmless means that the College receives state funds based on 2018-2019 funding levels so there is no current impact on the 23/24 apportionment funds,” PCC vice president Candace Jones said. “The Hold Harmless provision is scheduled to expire at the end of fiscal year 23/24 so we are monitoring the state’s fiscal outlook closely.”

In Newsom’s  plan, aligning with Proposition 98, the Governor marked the Cost Of Living Adjustment which is set at 8.13% to be a top priority and proposed a $652 million increase to support it. This will allow PCC among other community colleges in California to receive adequate funds to support its operations, to match rising costs and inflation.

The state budget also proposed a $200 million increase to support enrollment and student retention, especially among underrepresented communities, which has seen a major decline in enrollment in recent years. 

“Our enrollment is down overall but has recently trended upward. For the current term of Spring 2023 we have 2,000 more students than we had in Spring 2022,” PCC spokesperson Alex Boekelheide said. “Our Black student enrollment is up 10 percent. We have been using additional funding from the state and Federal government, including allocations from COVID relief funds, to boost recruitment, enrollment, retention, and completion efforts.” 

While some programs will see an increase, the maintenance’s budget will be decreased by approximately $213 million dollars according to the proposed plan. PCC is currently working on building the whole new U-building, and advancing towards building the Gallaway Plaza Café as well as necessary repairs to existing facilities. A move that may raise some challenges during this time of economic uncertainty.

However, according to PCC Board of Trustees member Jim Osterling, last year’s bond initiative to raise $565 million to fund PCC’s facilities upgrade will pay for the majority of the school’s construction projects.

“By design most or all of the new facilities costs are paid for by the local district,” Osterling said. “Thankfully our new construction program that is going to take place  for the next 20 years is not going to be impacted to any great extent by these cutbacks. We are very fortunate that even though there might be state cutbacks to facilities repair and new construction, we have a local funding source.”

As for services that might be impacted by the budget decrease, Osterling points out that while almost all of PCC’s operating costs come from the state’s budget, the institution has other programs that help decrease costs independently like the Open Educational Resources. OER is a program that provides students with courses that rely on alternative learning resources instead of traditional textbooks, allowing students to reduce their attending costs.

“PCC continues to make positive progress toward the CCC roadmap goals. As fiscal considerations change, PCC will adjust its strategies,” Jones said. “Adaptability will be an essential mentality in future years.”

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