Lawmakers offer little hope for quick budget turnaround

Published 6:00 am Friday, December 29, 2000

WESSON — Copiah-Lincoln Community College officials Thursdayshowed area lawmakers the impact of state funding cuts, butsluggish revenue collections and planned spending elsewhere couldleave the lawmakers with few relief options when they convene nextweek.

Dr. Paul Johnson, dean of the college, and Michael Tanner,business manager, reviewed Co-Lin efforts to offset over $500,000in state revenue losses since fiscal year 2000, and school plans tohandle a projected $1.4 million loss in fiscal year 2002, whichwill start in July.

According to Legislative Budget Office projections, overallcommunity college funding is expected to be down around $39million. Of that, about $9 million is in the area of vocationaltraining activities.

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“That’s going to significantly impact some of the training we doin local areas,” Johnson told lawmakers.

Johnson said community colleges provide access to education tostudents and others who otherwise wouldn’t have it.

“We feel like the services we provide to our districts . . .everybody does a good job,” said Johnson, filling in for PresidentDr. Howell Garner, who had to be out of town.

Co-Lin efforts undertaken so far include freezing somepositions, 10 percent reductions in supply and travel budgets, andthe elimination of an equipment budget, with the exception oftechnology expenditures.

“We feel strongly that technology is an area we can’t stop on orslow down,” Johnson said, stressing the need for the school to stayon the “cutting edge.”

Actions taken to accommodate projected revenue losses include a$100 a semester full-time and $15 per semester part-time tuitionincreases, effective next fall; a $75 dorm fee increase; thepotential for some positions not being filled following a vacancy;further travel and supply budget reductions, and asking supportingcounties for additional funding.

Johnson said the the maximum property tax millage from countieswould generate $355,249, but school officials said realisticexpectations put that number around $100,000.

Area lawmakers were supportive of community colleges in generaland Co-Lin in particular

“I really think it’s the best value we’ve got in education,”said Dist. 91 Rep. Joey Hudson, of Monticello, about communitycolleges.

Dist. 39 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith said Co-Lin officials realizedthe budget situation the state was in and had done an excellent jobpreparing for reductions. She said they had been good stewards ofstate funds.

“Any money the state spends here is money well-spent,” thesenator said.

However, while pledging their support, lawmakers expected budgetplans to be pretty much set when they return to Jackson on Jan.2.

And the latest revenue totals offered little hope ofimprovement. Hyde-Smith and Dist. 36 Sen. Lynn Posey saidcollections for December were running about 30 percent behindprojections for the month.

“We’re still behind. It’s going to be interesting to see how theDecember figures run,” Posey said.

Options for bond bills, a source of revenue for capitalimprovements and building projects, also appeared to belimited.

“From the Ways and Means Committee, it’s going to be tight,tight, tight,” said Simpson County Rep. Clint Rotenberry, a memberof that committee.