Budget crunch ongoing

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

Allen County Community College finally knows exactly how much state aid it will have to return, Steve Troxel, vice president for finance, reported.
Troxel addressed the college budget at Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting.
The college will give back $214,373 in state aid, money previously promised but then pulled away as lawmakers struggled to come up with a balanced budget.
In addition, Allen County is looking at a reduction in state aid of about 9.85 percent for the 2009-10 academic year, with more cuts possible.
The reduction leaves the college with a budget of about $800,000 out of balance, Troxel said, “and we’re fortunate. There are some schools out there in a lot worse shape than we are.”
The college will decide over the summer how to make up the difference, either by increasing property taxes, or using cash reserves.
The lost funding is mitigated somewhat because of Allen County’s growing enrollment, Troxel said, particularly with its online and outreach programs.
“The bad news is that the Legislature didn’t fix its problem,” Troxel said, noting the state’s budget essentially has no money for cash reserves.
That means more cuts are near certainty as the state’s revenue projections continue to fall short of their mark. It’s unknown whether future cuts will be targeted or approved across-the-board, Troxel said.
“And we probably won’t know anything until November of next year,” added ACCC President John Masterson.
“Something will have to happen by then,” Troxel said. “Hopefully, the economy will get better, but I’m not sure that will be enough.”

THERE REMAINS a lack of a resolution in the college’s onging dispute with Custom Energy, which installed upgraded climate conrol and lighting systems at the Iola campus in 2006.
The college noted that the new systems have yet to mean lower utility bills, which was guaranteed by the company.
Custom Energy, meanwhile, insists it has met the terms of its agreements, and that the system has not saved money because of operator errors.
Attorneys from Fisher, Patterson, Sayler and Smith, Topeka, have recommended the college bring in the designers of the software used to control the system to ensure it is functioning as it should.
“It may be something the courts will have to decide,” Troxel told the trustees. “A lot will be up to how much we want to spend to continue to pursue this.”