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Co-Lin expecting clearer budget picture this month

WESSON — Community college officials should have a better ideaof their financial future later this month after lawmakers finalizefunding plans for the schools.

Copiah-Lincoln Community College President Dr. Howell Garnertold trustees Thursday that March 24 was the target date for Houseand Senate conferees to iron on budget plans. He said collegeofficials would have a more accurate picture then of a projected$38 million shortfall.

Garner reported some good news in that around $8 million of thecuts related to work force training could be restored.

“We have a lot of commitments, and it looks like they’ll findthat,” Garner said.

However, if some of the remaining $30 million is not restored,Garner indicated schools would still be in a difficultsituation.

“We’ve got some hope that they might restore some of that,”Garner said.

Community colleges across the state have made plans to deal withnext year’s budget shortfall. With state revenue collectionscontinuing to lag, Garner suggested the budget ax may still beneeded later.

“We have to be prepared to cut again,” Garner said.

Garner said the following year’s state budget is being preparedbased on 3.7 percent growth.

“I haven’t met anybody who thinks it’s going to be that,” Garnersaid, mentioning some growth estimates of 0 to 2 percent andnational growth patterns that are predicted to be flat.

In another money matter, utilities are forecast to take a biggerbite of the budget.

Co-Lin officials have been studying electricity and gas costsand are looking at an over $200,000 increase next year. Thatrepresents about a 40 percent jump.

“It’s bad enough, but conservative compared to what others’rates have done,” Garner said.

In personnel matters, trustees approved an employee drug-testingpolicy and a number of personnel policy revisions. The revisionsaddress items such as increased sick leave time, more jury dutycompensation and others.

Dr. J.H. Stribling, chairman of the board, commended policycommittee members for their work on the testing policy andrevisions.

“I read over them and was very pleased with them,” Striblingsaid.