Although Proposition 30 was approved by California voters last November, Long Beach City College (LBCC) still faces a budget deficit of more than $6 million. That shortfall prompted the LBCC District Board of Trustees to discontinue instructional programs in 11 career/technical disciplines that had been offered at the college for many years. The trustees voted 4–1 to cancel the programs during their regularly scheduled meeting on Jan. 23.
“We had always made it clear that, even if Proposition 30 passed, LBCC would still have to make cuts because of the last three years of declining revenues,” said Eloy Ortiz-Oakley, college superintendent-president. He explained that the passage of Proposition 30 significantly reduced the magnitude of the necessary reductions, but no one in the LBCC administration ever expected that the voter-approved tax increases would eliminate the need for program cuts.
The LBCC programs the board of trustees discontinued are auto-body technology, aviation maintenance, audio production, interior design, welding, automotive technology, real estate, photography, air-conditioning/refrigeration/ heating, diesel mechanics and carpentry. The 11 programs will still be available during LBCC’s spring semester but will be eliminated entirely beginning with the fall 2013 semester. A little more than 24,000 students are enrolled in classes at LBCC. Approximately 450 of them will be directly impacted by the program cuts. “We are going to work with all these students to make sure they are able to complete their program, if not at LBCC, then at some other college,” said Mark Taylor, director of college advancement, public affairs and governmental relations.
“I am painfully aware of the tremendous impacts these reductions will have on our students, faculty and staff, but [the program eliminations] are critical for the long-term fiscal health of the college,” Ortiz-Oakley noted. “LBCC is still extremely committed to career technical education despite these reductions.”
A couple of weeks ago, when the board of trustees publicized the fact that, on Jan. 23, it would be voting on the proposed program eliminations, 5th District Long Beach City Councilmember Gerrie Schipske issued a press release urging the board to keep the aviation maintenance program intact at LBCC.
“There are four major airports besides the Long Beach Airport in the area and approximately 40 smaller airfields in the region where graduates of this valuable program may find jobs from this training,” Schipske wrote in the release. “In such a difficult economic climate, it’s critically important that our schools train people for good-paying jobs such as aviation maintenance.” She added that she believes most of LBCC’s aviation-maintenance students would not be able to find an alternative program to finish their training in that field.
In response to Schipske’s press release, Roberto Uranga, president of the LBCCD Board of Trustees, wrote her a letter on Jan. 23 to explain the board’s rationale for eliminating the program. In the letter, which was also released to the press, Uranga stressed that the decision to discontinue the aviation-maintenance program came after extensive research and analysis by LBCC’s Academic Council and Executive Team, and presentations by the affected program faculty and students.
“As I am sure you are aware, the need to reassess LBCC’s programs comes as a result of the loss of more than $7.5 million in funding after several consecutive years of budget cuts from the State of California,” Uranga wrote. “Even with the passage of Proposition 30 and with the Governor’s January budget proposal, LBCC still faces a $6.4-million deficit and millions of dollars in deferred revenues for the current and future academic years.”
Uranga stressed that LBCC’s administration and the board of trustees found ways to reduce expenditures by $7.9 million during the past four years. “Despite those efforts, further cuts are needed to close a structural deficit that continues to present challenges to our course offerings and to meeting the needs of our growing student population,” Uranga noted. “In fact, LBCC continues to serve more students than its budget appropriation funds.” He explained that although the elimination of the 11 programs will save an estimated $2.4 million, that savings will not completely close the current budget shortfall. “But it will allow the college to focus the revenues it receives from the state on better meeting the needs of the majority of our students,” he said.
Ortiz-Oakley agreed with Uranga, stressing that the college’s shrinking resources have forced the administration to make painful decisions in order to do the most good for the majority of students. “Our research indicates that there is a dwindling amount of jobs locally in the aviation-maintenance field,” he added.
Taylor outlined the seriousness of the college’s budget woes and the measures the school has taken to meet those challenges. He explained that during the past three years LBCC has absorbed $10.9 million in revenue reductions– a 9.7-percent reduction in revenues from the state. “LBCC implemented $5.1 million in classified and management staff reductions at the beginning of this academic year,” he said. “We eliminated 43 classified positions and 12 management positions, and reduced the assignment of an additional 96 classified positions.”
Ortiz-Oakley said it is probable that more cuts will have to be implemented, and the administration will continue its efforts to find ways to reduce expenditures while offering the best educational opportunities possible to its students. He added that the amount of money the college will receive as a result of Proposition 30 is unknown at this time.“Proposition 30 guarantees the percentage of revenues LBCC will receive annually but does not guarantee the amount,” he said. “No one can predict the amount of additional revenues that will be raised because the economy has still not fully recovered from the recession of a few years ago.”
Ortiz-Oakley noted that LBCC will continue to strongly support career technical education (CTE) as it has throughout its history. “The board has made a commitment to support CTE,” he said. “That is a commitment I will keep.”