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Budget issuesstill concernCo-Lin board

WESSON — With good planning earlier this year, Copiah-LincolnCommunity College officials believe they are prepared for about$300,000 in forthcoming state funding cuts, but another cut afterthe first of the year could produce more difficulties.

WESSON — With good planning earlier this year, Copiah-LincolnCommunity College officials believe they are prepared for about$300,000 in forthcoming state funding cuts, but another cut afterthe first of the year could produce more difficulties.

Real and possible future funding cuts were the subject of somediscussion Thursday at Co-Lin’s monthly Board of Trusteesmeeting.

“We are trying to find ways to make these cuts as painless aspossible,” said Dr. Howell Garner, Co-Lin president.

Before the year started, community colleges sustained a $6.3million cut, Garner said.

Now, due to lagging state revenue collections, colleges areexpecting an additional $7.36 million cut in the next few days. If$3.1 million in debt service on a technology bond issue can betransferred to the state general fund, Garner said the cut would bedown to around $4.2 million.

For Co-Lin, the cuts represent a community college formulafunding loss of $295,698, Garner said.

However, more bad news could lie ahead after the statelegislature convenes in January. A 5 percent cut in most stateagency funding would impact community colleges to the tune of $7.2million, Garner said.

That would push Co-Lin’s funding losses to over $400,000 andforce some additional budgetary moves at the local level, Garnersaid. He indicated that state-level efforts to ease the cuts weremostly exhausted.

“We’ve played all our cards pretty much,” Garner said. “There’snot a lot left to do on the state level to help the individualcolleges.”

With plans adopted when approving this year’s school budget,Garner said about $369,000 in reductions were identified to handlecurrent and possible future cuts. However, that was not enough toabsorb the spring cuts should they come, and school officials arelooking at actions in other areas, such as reducing purchaseplans.

“We’re looking at a point in the spring where we simply stopbuying,” Garner said, adding that staff has been advised already tobe cautious and conservative with purchases.

On a positive note, Garner said it appears no personnel orsalary reductions will be needed. Also, though, no salary increasesare expected for next year.

The possibility of spring funding cuts remains uncertain.

“We won’t know until the legislature meets,” Garner said.

Board officials praised the administration for its efforts inweathering the budget storm.

Dr. Steve Wells, budget and finance chairman, and Dr. J.H.Stribling, chairman of the board, said the cuts are unfortunate.However, a sign of a good administration is to make plans tosurvive the hard times.

“It pleases me that we won’t have reductions in salaries orpersonnel,” Stribling said, adding that the school will handle thecuts and not have to borrow money to pay bills.

In another funding matter, Co-Lin’s budget is being helped somewith increases from counties in its district. Garner updatedtrustees on Co-Lin officials’ visits with county boards ofsupervisors.

“We got a good reception in all our counties…,” Garner said.”We feel good about what they did.”

In maintenance and improvement funding, supporting counties aregiving an additional $91,360 during the current year. Of that,Lincoln County is leading the way with a $35,750 boost in fundingto the school.

In other matters Thursday, trustees were notified of a $35,000insurance settlement in a lawsuit brought by a student who lost afinger tip in a shop accident last year.

Board and school officials also discussed a contract withCellular South for the company to install a tower to improve oncampus and Wesson area coverage, and authorized the administrationto continue negotiations with a construction manager to oversee anew dormitory construction project.