Press-Republican

February 22, 2013

CCC faculty question finances

By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Concerns were expressed to Clinton Community College’s Board of Trustees regarding the management of the school’s money over the past four years.

During the public-comment portion of this week’s board meeting, some CCC faculty members said Clinton Community President John Jablonski ignored declining high-school enrollment in the area, as well as SUNY’s October 2009 warning to the school that substantial reductions in state funding were on the horizon.

“Instead, and with overconfidence, President Jablonski went about spending down our fund balance at a time when we should have tightened our belt,” said Janice Padula, a professor of math and science at the school.

Jablonski told the Press-Republican in a separate interview that, in each of the last two years, the college budgeted for both declining enrollment and reduced state aid.

“That’s just a matter of record,” he said.

FUND BALANCE

During the meeting, Padula presented the board with a graph she said was generated using information from the college’s last four Annual Reports of the Controller, indicating that the college’s expenses were below revenue in the 2009 and 2010 budget years but exceeded revenues in 2011 and 2012, resulting in the use of about $1 million in fund balance.

“Overspending the revenues that were generated is not a way to manage a budget ... These proposed layoffs will only widen this million-dollar gap even further,” she said.

The college, Jablonski told the Press-Republican, did use fund balance in recent years, as has almost every community college in the SUNY system.

“Many of us have drawn on our fund balance during this time of declining state support and, I might add, declining enrollment across the state,” he said.

CONFLICTING NUMBERS

Padula presented the board with another graph based on the college’s annual reports indicating that, while overall salary expenses, not including benefits, increased in 2010, 2011 and 2012, the cost of instructional-staff salaries did not.

“The cost of instruction at this educational institution has been flat-lined for the last three budgets,” she said.

Jablonski told the Press-Republican the cost of the college’s faculty salaries, not including benefits, was $4,167,445 in 2009 and $4,805,359 in 2012, marking an increase of approximately 15 percent.

The cost of benefits for those same faculty members, he said, was $1,538,742 in 2009 and $2,178,440 in 2012, an increase of approximately 42 percent.

The total cost of instruction, Jablonski noted, is represented by the sum of faculty salaries and faculty benefits. Therefore, the cost of instruction in 2012 is approximately $1.3 million greater than it was in 2009.

FISCAL SITUATION

At the meeting, CCC professor of social and behavioral sciences June Foley questioned why it was reported to the board on Jan. 6 that the college’s projected remaining fund balance for Aug. 31, 2013, would be $1,406,798, while it was reported to the college community on Jan. 23 that the school expected to have $722,218 in fund balance remaining by that same date. 

“As a part of the effort to help the college in these dire financial times, I and many other faculty members are trying to understand the college’s actual fiscal situation,” Foley told the board. “This effort has been made difficult by widely varying projections such as these.”

Jablonski told the Press-Republican the Jan. 23 report was, in fact, a projection of what fund balance would remain on Aug. 31, 2013, while the Jan. 6 report covered “the financial activity of the college for the first four months of the academic year; that would be September through December. It did not reflect projected activity for the remaining eight months, January through August.”

INPUT CALLED LACKING

Multiple faculty members said during the meeting that Jablonski made important decisions regarding the college without the input of CCC’s Strategic Planning Committee. 

“He should have approached the committee in October of 2009 to ask how the college should best respond to the twin challenges of declining state aid and a declining high-school student population in Clinton County,” Foley said.

CCC professor of humanities Lee Ann Thomas told the board that while she is certain that Jablonski is hardworking and committed to seeing the college succeed, “it is just not certain whether Clinton can remain stable under the leadership of a captain who is trying to sail this vessel alone.”

But Jablonski told the Press-Republican the Strategic Planning Committee has been involved in the college’s financial decisions.

“For the last two years, the Strategic Planning Committee has worked to analyze all of the data that is available through our Enrollment Management Committee, our program reviews and assessments,” he said, “and what they have done each of the last two years is prioritize the highest needs of the college.

“Those priorities from the Strategic Planning Committee,” he said, “have been used to make resource allocations for the college’s operating budget and for the restricted funds that the college has used that it gets from grants and outside sources.”

Email Ashleigh Livingston: alivingston@pressrepublican.com