College seeks funding increase from counties
CENTREVILLE — Chesapeake College is seeking $1,744,183 from Queen Anne’s County in its fiscal year 2017 budget, an increase of a little more than $150,000.
The college is seeking a 4 percent increase in fiscal year 2017 from its five community partners, Queen Anne’s, Caroline, Dorchester, Kent and Talbot counties, said President Barbara Viniar during the Tuesday, March 22, county commission meeting. The increase would add $241,308 to the school’s operating fund.
The total operating budget contribution from the counties is $6.274 million, with an additional contribution to the college’s Maintenance and Repair Fund of $397,800.
The college’s total operating budget is $20.7 million, down from fiscal year 2016 by more than $1.5 million.
The operating fund support from the five counties is calculated based on the percentage of full-time equivalent (FTE) employees and students from the county. Queen Anne’s County’s FTE figure is 27.8 percent, based on an audit completed on the fiscal 2015 budget.
Due to declines in the school’s enrollment and no major increases in public funding, the school had to lay off five full-time employees as well as reduce the hours for other employees and downgrade some positions, Viniar said. The school, she said, is also not filling vacancies in some positions to avoid future layoffs. For the students, tuition has increased. Last year increases of $9 per credit were seen, though that was lowered this year.
Viniar said though the school experienced an enrollment decline last spring, it wasn’t as bad as the college was expecting. She said the school expects another decline next year as the high school population in the five-county area has been down.
The decrease in funding for the school has also had an affect on recruiting and retaining employees, Viniar said. A compensation study completed three years identified a lack of competitiveness in salary, she said.
“There was a time when we could attract people to the college because we were paying more than Queen Anne’s County, for example. That’s not true anymore,” Viniar said. “People are leaving Chesapeake to go elsewhere ... People are not sure if they have continuing employment. They’re not making enough to fulfill their own plans and goals, and so they’re simply leaving.”
The college budget includes a 2.5 percent acrossthe-board salary increase, which goes into effect on July 1. There were also salary increases in 2009, 2014 and 2015.
Some costs would be difficult for the college to avoid. Viniar said the testing center in the Learning Resource Center in the library on campus was completely renovated within the past three years because the General Education Degree Exam is now owned by a new group and has “very strict rules about where you can administer a test.”
“It’s important to us to have a place where students can come take the GED Exam, and we have students who come who are enrolled in other colleges, like UMUC or places like that, to take exams,” Viniar said. “Now we do charge a modest fee to those students. We think it’s part of our mission. We know that it’s used by people in the community, but it’s a cost that we have to absorb.”
As well as personnel hardships at Chesapeake, Viniar said technology is becoming an issue at the community college due to expensive service contracts.
“These are not things we can do without,” she said.
For many technologybased services, such as the new Student Planning Module that allows students to register for courses and be advised online, the big expense is not the initial purchase but the ongoing support needed for it to function.
Viniar said the technology in the science building, which was completed in 2008, is mostly at the end of its useful life. The school has only recently begun putting money back into its technology budget after cutting about $250,000 since fiscal year 2009, Viniar said.
Commissioner Stephen Wilson said he has “no trouble going for 4 percent” as the college has “provided an efficiency for something that this county needs,” which is vocational education.
Commissioner Jack Wilson said he wants to see a partnership with the county schools and the CTE and skilled trades.
“I hope you can have confidence that we do not come in with a wish list. This budget is what we need … There’s nothing in our request that’s a frill. There’s nothing that’s a trade-off. We need what’s in here, and we certainly want to be able to say to our staff, ‘You can have long-deserved raises, you can have the equity increase so you will be at market value.’ We want to improve morale on campus, but it’s more than people’s feelings. It’s about keeping good people here rather than losing them to other places,” Viniar said.
Chesapeake College President Barbara Viniar, right, presents the Chesapeake College Fiscal Year 2017 budget request during the Queen Anne’s County Commission meeting on Tuesday, March 22.