For the first time in at least five years, conditions in the economy and Olympia are creating an opportunity for a strategic budget process at Shoreline Community College.
“Since 2008, we’ve been in cut-mode, reacting to directives from the state to slash expenses, which meant reducing programs and services,” Interim President Daryl Campbell said July 23, 2013 as the draft budget for 2013-14 was released to the campus. “Our elected officials have always said they know how valuable community and technical colleges are to the lives of our students and the economy, there just wasn’t any money. Now, with the economy stabilizing a bit, lawmakers were able to stanch the bleeding.”
The result for Shoreline is a $40.6 million budget with less than half of that, $18.8 million, coming from the state. The balance is made up of $17.3 million in anticipated tuition and the rest from grants, contracts and other local sources. The bottom line is a budget for the coming years that is about $1 million more than the 2012-13 version.
For students, perhaps the most significant news is that for the first time since 1989, the Legislature did not raise tuition.
“We don’t set the tuition for Shoreline, Olympia does,” Campbell said. “We see first-hand the impacts of skyrocketing tuition on our students. We are grateful, as I’m sure our students are, to the Legislature for this reprieve.”
In anticipation of the possibility of a budget process that didn’t involve a hatchet, the college Strategic Planning and Budget Committee developed a process to align the hoped-for resources with areas of strategic importance.
“We were hoping for at least level funding going into the coming year and then crossing a few extra fingers that there might be some additional money,” Campbell said. “Thanks to the Legislature, that’s just what the community and technical colleges got.”
Key to the aligning resources with needs are Strategic Action Plans. Departments and divisions across the college submitted requests for projects and expenses that would address student needs and strategic goals.
In all, 33 plans were submitted and reviewed. Eight action plans received outright funding approval, another 15 plans got conditional approval, seven were not approved and the other three didn’t ask for action.
In total, the approved and conditionally approved plans total $733,546 in new spending to help students.
“This was a new process for the college and I really appreciate the work of the committee members and of all those who submitted proposals,” Campbell said. “It is important to know that these funds should not be considered as ‘permanent’ additions. The process we used this year is just a first step toward tying budget to strategy. We are becoming more data-driven and accountability is increasingly important.”
Even with the increases, Campbell said the college budget is appropriately conservative.
“As we have over the past five years, we will budget conservatively. That has served us well during these unprecedented economic times, allowing the college to emerge in a stronger financial position than when it went in,” Campbell said. “If things get better, we all win. If they don’t, then we are prepared.”
The next steps toward a final budget will an opportunity for campus feedback, any final adjustments and then forwarding to the Board of Trustees for review and action at the Sept. 25 regular meeting. Normally, the annual budget is approved in June, but action by the Legislature didn't occur in time.