College braces for 2013-14 budget squeeze

May 6, 2012 By Joshua Scheer, Staff Writer

Central Wyoming College leaders are trying to be proactive with the coming year's budget after Gov. Matt Mead announced April 23 that all state agencies should prepare for a possible 8 percent funding cut for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

"We were told that we could expect a possible 4 percent cut in fiscal year 2014" earlier in the year, president Jo Anne McFarland said.

At a meeting April 18, the college Board of Trustees unanimously approved a preliminary 2012-13 budget. Trustees Colton Crane and Judy Pedersen were not in attendance.

McFarland told the board the proposed $56.5 million budget was ready for adoption, however she and staff would be coming to the board in May with proposed cuts to ease the transition of a possible 4 percent cut in fiscal year 2013-14.

Two days later, McFarland said she was alerted at the Wyoming Community College Commission meeting that the college should at least expect 4 percent, possibly up to 8 percent.

Three days after that, Mead made his announcement.

The reason for the possible budget cuts would be because of a decline in revenue as natural gas prices drop.

More cuts will be proposed during the meeting May 16.

McFarland called the budget change "significant" and "a tall order."

"We're fortunate to have a heads-up," she said.

McFarland is confident CWC can sustain the cuts within the next biennium, which includes the fiscal years beginning this July and next.

"We're trying to take as many cuts as we can in the first year of the biennium," she said.

Over the next two fiscal years, with most beginning in July, McFarland said CWC needs to trim about $1 million in costs.

State funds for fiscal year 2012-13 account for 44 percent of the college's budget, making it the college's largest funding contributor.

Something else being considered as the college looks ahead is a projected decrease of $162,000 in local tax revenue in fiscal year 2013-14.

"We are doing it very strategically," she said, noting the college's top priority is student success. "We don't want to make reductions in a rush."

McFarland said she wants to avoid cuts that directly relate to serving students.

"We've cut our operating budget $140,000," she said.

She also plans on the college not filling several vacated positions as well as possibly eliminating other jobs.

Without expanding further, McFarland said there are six or seven positions that could be eliminated or not filled next year.

"We'll finalize all of that next week," McFarland said May 2.

To find areas where cuts are possible, college administrators have held a series of internal meetings, including several all-day sessions, with different groups of employees.

Cuts are also looming in the following 2015-16 biennium, McFarland said, and staff is looking for areas to become more efficient.

One option she said could be moving to cell phones versus land lines or pushing print publications online.

McFarland called the work a "phased and evidence-based" approach.

At the April board meeting, when the college was still considering the 4 percent cut, trustee Frank Welty expressed desire to be more informed about the process and asked to see the proposed changes more than a few days ahead of the board meeting May 16, when the board receives its monthly packets of information.

"We will be finishing the process right at about the time the normal board meeting packet goes out," McFarland said. "We don't want to short circuit the internal process."

Associate vice president for administrative services Ron Granger is managing the budget process for the biennium.

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