Budget Processes: Maintaining the 10 Plus 1 in Budget Crisis
The world, the nation and the state are in financial crisis and people are panicking. The late California budget and now the emergency session regarding the budget are causing many campuses to hold emergency budget meetings and administrators are calling for quick action. How do we preserve our budget processes in these times?
In Title 5 Article 2. Section 53200, number 10 of the "10 plus 1" is "processes for institutional planning and budget development". Even in crisis a budget process that has been developed can be followed. So where do you as a faculty leader begin? First find your written planning and budget process. Your Board of Trustees should have approved a formal planning and budget process policy. Start there if you do not know what was approved and when. Look to see if it defines faculty, classified and student roles. Does it allow for feedback in the process and rationales for why decisions are made? What are the timelines for this process and how can these timelines be changed in time of crisis? Your process should be transparent and clear and all should have a chance to provide input at certain steps of the process.
In crisis this planning and budget process comes down to relationships and people. In good times, you should build relationships so in the bad times you can work together. Meet with your classified senates and unions, meet with your faculty unions, meet with the student senate and administrators and start problem solving now as a unified front. Keep in mind your college mission, strategic plan and educational master plan when looking at budget items. Are program review and unit plans used to help drive the process? These items may help you focus and give you guidance when you feel pressure to act immediately. Remember the good news about accreditation is that it requires the college to follow its planning and budget process and show that it uses these linkages to program review to make budget decisions-so use this to your advantage.
Take the time to review where your budget process starts and who is involved. What are your budget committees and who is on them? Do you have strong relationships with those faculty who are on key budget decision committees, and do they have a firm grasp of the 10 plus 1? Budget decision criteria should be well defined and clear at all levels of the process. Decide early in this crisis what timelines can be changed and by how much. Continuous feedback will be essential in this adjustment of the planning and budget process. Do not forget the other pots of money that may help you during this time such as reserves, grants, Perkins, any flexibility with categorical funding and others.
Multi-college districts leaders should ask themselves the same questions that single college districts leaders do. Questions to ask in multi-college districts include where is the written planning and budget process? Where does it start and with whom? Are the criteria clear throughout the process? Is it fair to all colleges? How much goes to the district administration? Who makes the decisions? The budget process can be more complex in multi-college districts, but the key principles of the process and the policy should still be followed.
So now is the time to be proactive in the problem-solving process and take the lead in preventing crisis at your campus. Do not forget to contact your legislators during this special session and make them aware of how community colleges impact the economy. Community colleges are the educational structure that turns out the largest number of people ready to enter the workforce and immediately add to our economic base and pay taxes. Call legislators, write them and e-mail them with the numbers of students who leave your campus with certificates and degrees and enter the workforce. Community colleges can be the force that helps our economy recover but we can only do that if we are funded!
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