Co-Lin keeps close watch on budget plans

Published 6:00 am Friday, February 2, 2001

WESSON – Copiah-Lincoln Community College officials are keepinga close eye on finances as they deal with a projected $1.7 millioncut in state funding over the next year and a half.

WESSON – Copiah-Lincoln Community College officials are keepinga close eye on finances as they deal with a projected $1.7 millioncut in state funding over the next year and a half.

Of that total, $558,621 is from the current fiscal year thatends June 30 and another $1.2 million is in the next fiscal yearthat ends June 30, 2002. Included in the current year cut is a 5percent reduction announced earlier this week to state communitycollege presidents, Co-Lin President Dr. Howell Garner toldtrustees during Thursday’s board meeting.

College officials stressed the need for a conservative fiscalapproach as the state looks ahead to several years of level growth,instead of the higher growth patterns seen earlier.

“We’ve got to be very cautious in everything we do and everydecision we make from here forward,” Garner said.

Garner presented finance totals that showed the college withinseveral thousand dollars of a balanced budget over the nexttwo-years. The balance is expected to be secured from savings fromsome frozen instructional positions, possible retirements, atuition increase, more revenue from supporting counties and othermeans.

“Basically, at this point, we’re looking at a balanced budgetwith a little left over, but not a lot,” Garner said.

Dr. J.H. Stribling, board chairman, said the cuts have to beabsorbed from about 12 percent of the school’s overall budget. Therest of the budget is made up of obligated funds for personnel andcontractual services.

Counties in Co-Lin’s district help support the school through alevy on property taxes. Regarding revenue from supporting counties,Garner said preliminary discussions with county officials have been”very positive.”

If the maximum increase was given, it would be about $355,000more, but Co-Lin officials are hoping for around $100,000.

“It’s going to be in that neighborhood,” Garner said.

On a statewide basis, board member Ken Bailey mentionedexploring additional revenue possibilities related to the state’sgaming industry. He said help for education was a selling pointused to get casinos into the state.

“It’s helped, but it certainly hasn’t lived up to expectations,”Bailey said.

Garner pointed out that last night’s discussion didn’t touch onthe funding cuts’s impact on workforce training services providedby community colleges. He said those services will be needed totrain people to replace those who leave their current jobs to go towork for the new Nissan plant.

“It’s a critical time in our state,” Garner said.

Garner said there were no guarantees there would not beadditional cuts depending on how state revenue comes in the future.A budget committee was appointed to work with the administration toaddress any budget cut-related financial concerns should theyarise.

In other business Thursday, trustees looked at a number ofpersonnel policy change recommendations, including drug testing forprospective employees and random testing for current employees incertain areas.

Personnel recommendations address items such as increased sickleave time, more jury duty compensation and others.

“Everything in here, other than the drug testing, is positivefor the people covered by these policies,” said Roy Winkworth,chairman of the personnel policy committee.

The drug testing recommendation includes provisions for randomtesting of security officers, maintenance staff, supervisorypersonnel and coaches in all sports.

John Henley, board attorney, said the goal was to cover as manyemployees as possible. Regarding covered employees, he said therewere reasons the college could cite in stipulating testing, but inothers there were not.

“We have pushed up against the gray area,” Henley said, whilealso urging consistent application of the testing policy.

A decision on the changes was tabled until the March meeting toallow trustees time to review them.