Blue Mountain Community College (BMCC) is working with faculty and staff to cut at least $2.8 million from its 2020-21 budget, which could mean a reduction in programs and services.
Without making significant cuts and changes to operations, BMCC is in danger of dropping below the minimum $1.5 million reserves the College is required to maintain by Board of Education policy. College officials say that despite being fiscally-conservative for years, the continued decrease in enrollment, monumental increases to PERS, inadequate state funding, unfunded mandates at the state and federal levels, and, now, the coronavirus, the college has had to dip heavily into its reserves to maintain a current level of service to students and the community.
Addressing this budget issue will take a three-pronged approach: cut expenses, increase revenues, and increase efficiencies.
“There is no one solution to this issue,” said BMCC President Dennis Bailey-Fougnier. “We have to take a multi-pronged approach.”
Conversations about potential budget reductions and increasing revenues for 2020-21 began in January with BMCC employees. Several workshops have been held to help employees gain the same level of understanding about budget projections. The College Planning Council – made up of a cross-section of employees and students from around the college – has approved a budget reduction framework to help guide BMCC through this process and provide strategies in which to have this difficult conversation. This framework includes references to the BMCC Strategic Plan, master plans and departmental plans.
“Transparency throughout this process is critical,” said President Bailey-Fougnier. “Employee involvement is an important part of the process.”
For the 2020-21 academic year, BMCC plans a reduction of $2.8 million. Beyond 2020-21, the reduction could be an additional $2-$3 million. All areas of the college have been asked to find savings in current and projected budgets, as well as seek out ways to increase revenues and create additional efficiencies.
“BMCC employees have done a wonderful job over the years with being fiscally-conservative, finding creative ways to be more efficient, and serve our students,” Bailey-Fougnier said. “However, there are things out of our control, like state funding, PERS costs and unfunded mandates that have continued to drain our reserves. At the same time, BMCC must find new ways to operate more efficiently, and that may mean some sacrifices have to be made.”
All positions that become vacant are closely scrutinized to determine if the position remains necessary at its current level, if it can be reduced or modified to be more efficient or take on additional duties. While BMCC cannot guarantee there will not be positions eliminated during this process, college representative say they are doing what they can to preserve instructional programs that serve the region’s workforce needs.
The college has seen a 6-percent decline in enrollment during the 2019-20 academic year. BMCC was the only one of the 17 Oregon community colleges that did not increase tuition for the 2019-20 academic year, and the board of education is still weighing whether or not to increase tuition for 2020-21.
In addition, shifting to fully virtual service in response to COVID-19 is expected to have a financial impact to the college, as well as cause a further decrease to enrollment.
The BMCC Board of Education must pass the 2020-21 budget by the end of June.