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Despite cuts, Co-Lin doing ‘as good a job as we can’

WESSON – Copiah-Lincoln Community College trustees Thursdayapproved a new year budget that will allow small salary increasesfor faculty and staff but also a tuition hike for students.

The $50 a semester increase, which will boost tuition to $850 asemester, is expected to generate almost $229,000 to help offset a$293,529 drop in funding from the state for the fiscal year thatstarts July 1. State community colleges received level funding fornext year, but an enrollment drop contributed to Co-Lin’s receivingless money, said President Dr. Howell Garner.

Like other community colleges, Co-Lin will receive $150,000 forwork force development centers.

The net effect is Co-Lin is looking at an approximately $17.8million budget for educational activities at is Wesson and Natchezcampuses and a center in Simpson County.

Garner told trustees that budget variables include current-yearcloseout activities and unknown enrollment numbers in the fall.Enrollment was down several hundred students from last year to thisyear’s approximately 3,000.

Garner praised faculty and staff in their efforts to controlexpenses.

“I feel like we’ve done as good a job as we can in controllingexpenses,” Garner said.

With the budget, trustees approved a one-step increase in thesalary scale. The move amount to about a 1.24 percent increase forfaculty and staff at a cost of $118,909 to the school.

As a morale boost, Garner said the college is also covering a$14,000 increase in dental insurance premiums. An $82,500 increasein health insurance premiums is being covered by the state.

Dr. Steve Wells, chairman of the school’s finance committee,said Co-Lin would like to have been able to do more for employees,but was unable to due to the budget situation. He applaudedcolleges’ ability to manage revenue and expenditures.

“We think we get good value for every dollar at communitycolleges, particularly Copiah-Lincoln,” Wells said.

Regarding the tuition increase, Garner said officials did notanticipate its having a negative impact on enrollment. He rejecteda question about whether an increase could be avoided.

“We don’t feel it would be prudent to put the school in aposition of being irresponsible in fiscal management,” said Garner,alluding to the necessity to maintain a good fund balance.

With no tuition increase, the school’s fund balance was forecastto drop almost $50,000 to $1.46 million. With the tuition hike, thebalance – depending on the variable mentioned – is forecast toincrease $152,000 to $1.66 million.

In other activity Thursday, trustees approved a $1.8 millionenergy management plan with Siemens Building Technologies, Inc.

The plan involves in installation of more energy-efficientequipment in 19 Wesson and Natchez campus buildings and otherenergy-savings measures. The plan is expected to be “cash-neutral”over the course of the 14-year plan.

“What we save you in electricity, natural gas and water pays forthe facility improvements,” said Amy Smith, Siemens sales engineer,during a presentation to trustees.