Struggling to make ends meet with depleted state funding and rising costs, Cayuga Community College is looking for ways to cut back on spending.
At the college's Jan. 16 board of trustees meeting, Diane Hutchinson, vice president for academic affairs, said the college suffered a 5 percent revenue shortage during the fall semester. Opining that CCC would likely not meet its enrollment goals, Hutchinson told the trustees that the college needed to cut costs.
"We can't really put a further burden on students, and we can't depend on funds from the state," she said.
Daniel Larson, CCC's president, said the state has not fulfilled its funding obligations to SUNY schools, forcing public colleges to depend too heavily on tuition.
Tuition currently accounts for 48 percent of CCC's operating budget, Larson said. So when student enrollment failed to meet expectations last fall, dropping 3 percent from the fall of 2011 to the fall of 2012, the college's reserves suffered a blow.
"The shortfall in government funding over the past several years has really caught up," Larson said.
And after spending years finding "creative" ways to work with the college's reserves, the college, like many other public schools, has run out of rainy day funds. So to operate within its means, Larson said CCC has started to make some tough, cost-cutting decisions.
"Is it easy?" he asked. "No. Never."
Along with reducing the hours of part-time employees, Larson said the college has cut travel expenses, halted making equipment purchases and asked department heads to take a second look at their expenses.
"We need to make certain whatever choices we make will not harm the students that we work with," he explained. "So it's looking at those areas...where we do have some flexibility."
Larson said the last thing he wants to do is layoff employees. So, the president said the administration has also asked union employees to consider taking unpaid days off, and spoken to bargaining units in an attempt to find additional ways to cut costs.
"Furlough days would certainly be one area where we could do that," Larson said. "It's all in the realm of things we've been exploring to figure out how we can take care of this budgeting issue."
Finding an exact number to accurately detail CCC's budgeting issue isn't easy.
With three more semesters of enrollment numbers left to tally, Larson said it will be midsummer before the college knows exactly what shape its budget is in.
"As we try to project what those numbers look like, if trends continue without any intervention, we could potentially see a shortfall of $1.5 million," he said. "We want to make sure people know its not a couple thousand dollars."
As the college waits for its final spring and summer enrollment numbers, Larson said the administration will continue to look for ways to shave off expenses in ways that inflict as little harm as possible. In the meantime, he encouraged the community to pitch cost-cutting suggestions.
"We're trying to work in a way that's transparent," Larson said. "We welcome ideas from the college community over how best to address this."