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Co-Lin battles budget shortfall

WESSON — With state funding cuts on the horizon, Copiah-LincolnCommunity College trustees Thursday approved a plan and new yearbudget to handle the shortfall yet still keep personnel salaries onschedule.

The total $15.9 million budget approved for the new school yearis about $153,000 less than this year.

While the school is expected to get about $90,000 more from thestate, cuts in other income and the financially unsound practice ofspending enrollment-related revenue on recurring expenses producedthe net impact of $593,974 less in available funds for Co-Lin.

“You don’t know what enrollment’s going to do from one year tothe next,” said President Dr. Howell Garner in explainingofficials’ “safe” practice of handling $440,517 inenrollment-related revenue.

Five percent general budget cuts and elimination of some plannedequipment purchases produced $285,122 in budget savings. Withanother $55,917 in salary-related savings, school officials wereable to produce total savings of $341,039.

Equipment purchases, if any are made, will be for technologyimprovements, Garner said.

“We feel like we’ve got to keep current in that area,” Garnersaid.

The school’s budget plan includes the restoration of a twoEnglish and two Math positions at 80 percent work load levels andcreation of two new Business Office Technology positions to handleincreasing enrollment in that area.

Also, with the plan, the school is able to provide faculty with1 percent salary step increments so that larger adjustments do nothave to be made in future years.

“This is not a raise,” Garner said. “We’re talking about keepingthe salary schedule that’s currently in place.”

The net effect of budget action is an increase in the school’sfund balance of $225,923. However, citing indications from stateofficials, Garner warned that may be needed to absorb another roundof cuts later in the year.

“We’re expecting to be cut in the middle of the year,” Garnersaid.

In yearly comparisons, the Wesson campus budget is .69 percentless for 2001 than 2000; however, with planning for the mid-yearcuts, the budget is 2.74 percent less. The Natchez campus budget is1.95 percent less for 2001 than 2000.

“Each campus did its due in cutting individual budgets,” Garnersaid.

With state budget action not finalized until earlier this week,Garner and other college officials praised business office andother personnel for preparing a budget in light of much uncertaintyat the state level.

“Not knowing made it very difficult to prepare a budget,” saidSteve Wells, chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee.

In other budget matters, trustees approved a plan to ask Co-Lindistrict county’s for 10 percent increases in local funding.

School officials said county boards of supervisors aresupportive and try to provide funding increases whenever possible.They were hopeful that would be the case this year.

“This is one year we’re more serious than ever about getting anincrease,” said Dr. J.H. Stribling, chairman of the board.

Michael Tanner, Co-Lin business manager, said school officialsbudgeted no increase from county revenue.

The 10 percent increases would amount to about $164,000 if allcounties gave that amount. Counties try to increase their yearlysupport level, but it is usually not as high as the requestedamount.

“Some counties give an increase every year,” said Tanner, addingthe revenue is appreciated in light of counties’ other budgetaryneeds and requests.

In other matters Thursday, trustees handled a number ofpersonnel issues including contracts for instructors and staff forthe next year and filling of some vacancies.

Trustees also received an update on a pending lawsuit againstthe school by a student who was injured last April in a potteryclass accident.

According to Thursday’s update from board attorney John Henley,student Michelle Fuller lost part of a finger in the accident onApril 13, 1999. The school’s insurance company denied liability inthe case, and the girl’s parents filed a $175,000 lawsuit in CopiahCounty Circuit Court.

Henley said an attorney for the insurance company is handlingthe case.