College System faces state funding cuts
The Lone Star College System may face a 5 percent cut to its state funding over the next two years.
Cindy Gilliam, vice chancellor of administration and finance and chief financial officer for the Lone Star College System, was notified by the state legislative budget board that it may lose $3.1 million in funding in both the current fiscal year and next year because of a shortfall in state sales tax collections.
Do I hear that we may be facing a train wreck next year, and that we are anticipating a cut from the Legislature?" asked M. Randolph Bates, Jr., chairman of the Lone Star Board of Trustess.
The cut comes at a time when the college system experienced a 25 percent increase in enrollment in just the last year and is set to open nearly one million square feet of new space by 2011.
We're prepared for this year," Gilliam said. But it will be difficult next year. We will need to start the budget process earlier, dissect the budget and look for opportunities for reductions. The last thing we want to do is to ask more money from the students or the taxpayers."
The district's $233.7 million budget is funded about 43 percent through local property taxes, 28 percent through student fees, 28 percent through state funding and 1 percent through miscellaneous sources. The current tax rate in the district is 11.01 cents per $100 of assessed value. Students had a tuition hike last year, but the property tax rate has decreased over the last eight years, Gilliam said.
The district currently has a 17 percent fund balance reserve, which can absorb the loss of state funds in the current fiscal year, and it anticipated the possible loss of funding due to the downturn in the economy.
The district budgeted conservatively this year and opted to handle increased enrollment with adjunct faculty rather than full-time staff. There are about 5,000 employees at the five colleges and six centers in the system, and about 3,000 of them are part-time, Gilliam said. In addition, hiring has been delayed for open administrative and support positions, Gilliam said.
Because of the student growth, the loss of 5 percent in state aid will have an estimated 17 percent impact on the budget next year. The college board will have to find areas to cut in the upcoming budget sessions for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
Lone Star recently reported record enrollment for the spring semester, with 62,363 students. That is an increase of 25 percent, or 13,000 students, over attendance in the spring of 2009. State aid is generally based on the number of students enrolled.
Through a $420 million bond election approved by voters in 2008, the system will continue to expand in the future. In addition to Lone Star College University Park, which opened with 4,000 students in January, the district is building five other new satellite campuses for Cy-Fair, Kingwood, Montgomery, North Harris, and Tomball. It also plans to expand facilities at the existing five colleges in the system, adding health and science buildings, student centers and fine art facilities.
Lone Star College is the largest community college system in the Houston region and the third largest in Texas.
Lone Star College Enrollment
The Lone Star College System, which includes five colleges, six satellite facilities and a university center in Montgomery and Harris counties, is facing budget cuts in its state funding over the next two years. The cuts come on the heels of a 25 percent increase in enrollment over one year and nearly one million square feet of new facilities expected to open by 2011. Following is information of student growth in the system.
Total enrollment in Spring 2010 62,353 students
Increase from Spring 2009 13,000 student or 25 percent
Growth by college
LSC CyFair 3,466 students or 26.9 percent
LSC -- Kingwood, 2013 student or 26.5 percent
LSC Montgomery, 2,004 or 20.9 percent
LSC North Harris, 2,997 students or 26.4 percent
LSC Tomball, 2,026 student or 24 percent
Source: Lone Star College System
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