Budget cuts may target part-time staff

At a Jan. 16 forum meeting, Lane Vice President of College Services Brian Kelly announced that the college is projecting budget cuts.

Kelly told attendees that the biggest issue facing the college is lowered enrollment numbers.

“We can continue to do amazing things,” Kelly said. “We’re just going to do amazing things with different levels of staffing and a different level of programming.”

A collaborative brainstorming session for financial strategies followed Kelly’s presentation.

The meeting was attended by students, faculty and classified employees, and was broadcast live over the web by Lane’s Media Arts Department.

During the recession, the college experienced an enrollment surge, which brought the college an increase in revenue.

Kelly said the college was planning for an eventual drop-off in enrollment revenue during the period of high enrollment.

This contingency planning included a “financial stabilization reserve,” a rainy-day fund. The college has used approximately $2.9 million from the fund over the past several years to maintain its operations.

“Enrollment-wise, we’ve had some rainy days and we’ve used those funds, but those funds are disappearing,” Kelly said.

Approximately 86 percent of Lane’s budget is spent on staff.

Further complicating the problems stemming from low enrollment, Kelly said, is an increase in personnel costs.

Lane is projecting a $16 million contribution into its employee health care this school year.

These problems have led the college to consider a handful of cuts going into next year.

“Part-time faculty, part-time staff will be reduced — and will be reduced at a greater level than we’ve seen already this year,” Kelly said.

Kelly said the college is looking closely at its vacancy listings. By not filling open jobs, the college could potentially save millions of dollars.

“However, we recognize that work has to come from somewhere, so this isn’t without difficulty,” Kelly said.

Associated Students of Lane Community College Senator Rebekah Ellis said Lane students could benefit from more access to academic advising.

Ellis said too many students enroll in Lane without a clear path to a degree in mind, and many of those students end up spending too much of their financial aid on unnecessary courses before reaching their limit and dropping out.

“I think retention is really important, as far as the budget goes,” she said.

Ellis wasn’t the only person in the room with student retention on her mind.

Fiora Starchild Wolf, an enrollment services adviser, said the school should consider using a customer service model when it looks at its students.

“How do we incorporate the knowledge of financial aid, for example, with counseling and advising?” Starchild Wolf said.

Kelly said more definitive answers on the specificity and severity of cuts to programs, services and staff will be brought to light over the final five months of Lane’s fiscal year.

“We all want to have enrollment levels that support all the great services and great programs we have here at Lane,” Kelly said. “Unfortunately, our enrollment levels aren’t going to allow us to do that for a while.”