State-Level Budget Processes: Consultation and Collaboration to Address System Needs

ASCCC Vice-President

Title 5 §53200 includes what is commonly known as the 10+1, a list of eleven areas of academic and professional matters that fall under academic senate purview. One of the 10+1 areas that sometimes does not get enough attention, at least not until financial issues arise, is the faculty role within budget processes. The budget at the state level is not much different from many local budgets: it goes through a series of steps, ideally with a variety of stakeholders involved, and the money never seems to be enough to cover all of the requests.

Funding for the California Community Colleges system comes through the governor’s budget, the first version of which is released each January. The major pot of money for the community colleges is largely governed by Proposition 98. Prop 98 establishes a minimum funding requirement, which is generally referred to as the minimum guarantee. These funds are used to run colleges, and much of this process is discussed in the budget paper approved by the ASCCC delegates at the Fall 2019 Plenary Session, available on the ASCCC website under the “Publications” tab. While these monies make up the bulk of the funding for colleges, there are other sources as well, and one of these sources is the monies requested in each year’s budget from the Chancellor’s Office for specific projects, plans, and other items that are proposed by the various system stakeholder groups. These requests are sent forward from the CCCCO as “budget change requests.”

The process for requesting money through a budget change request has gone through a series of changes in the past few years that have led to greater input from stakeholders and more transparency from the Chancellor’s Office. The process has also evolved into a year-long procedure, allowing for more conversation and consultation with stakeholders and others involved in the budget.

The first step in the budget change request process begins in July prior to the budget year, with a call to stakeholders to submit requests. These requests must be for systemwide priorities, not local college or district matters, and must include a fairly detailed description of what the request is, how it will have a statewide impact, who it will involve, and the amount requested. In the past two years, requests have ranged from an ask for additional monies for faculty diversification to the continued funding of the library services platform. The requests are compiled by the Chancellor’s Office and then discussed at an open meeting that precedes the August Consultation Council meeting. All parties who submitted budget change requests are invited to participate at the meeting, as are the other members of the Consultation Council. At Consultation Council, each of the stakeholders is asked about priorities based on the budget requests. At the August 2019 Consultation Council meeting, the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges noted that its top priority, as agreed upon by the Executive Committee at its August meeting, was funding to assist in the diversification of faculty in the system. This specific budget request included several components, including funding for full time hiring, for a “Grow Your Own” pilot to encourage colleges to hire their graduates as faculty, and for professional development for colleges and the Chancellor’s Office around faculty diversification.

Once the priorities are noted, the Chancellor’s Office team creates the full budget change request for the Board of Governors and presents that document at the Board of Governors’ meeting in September, where the Board votes to accept or not accept the recommendations of the Chancellor’s Office. From there, the request is sent to the Department of Finance to be included in the many documents that make up the requests that are submitted to be part of the governor’s budget. By January 10 of the following year, the governor is required to release the budget, which may contain all, some, or none of the requests from the Chancellor’s Office. In the January 2020 budget, for example, the governor included $15 million in one-time funding for a “Grow Your Own” pilot program to assist with faculty diversification but did not include the other monies around diversification that had been prioritized by the Chancellor’s Office, the Academic Senate, and others.

From January to May, all groups advocate for changes to the initially released budget prior to the May release of the revised budget, known as the May Revise. During this time, the Legislative Analyst’s Office provides a non-partisan analysis of the budget, and the legislature holds budget subcommittee hearings in both houses to hear concerns and challenges raised regarding the budget. For the past several years, the ASCCC has held its “Legislative Advocacy Day” within this time frame, during which members of the Executive Committee and the Legislative and Advocacy Committee meet with staff and legislators in Sacramento to provide education around specific bills and budget requests. Because the ASCCC is a 501(c)(6) organization, its Executive Committee and other committees are not allowed to lobby, but they can provide education around areas in which the committee members may have expertise, including all academic and professional matters. In addition, members of the Executive Committee may be called for consultation or to provide testimony or public comment during the period between January 10 and the May Revise on the budget or on pieces of legislation that might have an academic and professional impact.

Once the May Revise is released, both houses of the legislature hold budget subcommittee meetings to hear evidence from stakeholders and to ultimately provide their final recommendations to the leadership of each house. Each house appoints members to participate in a Conference Committee, where the two houses reconcile their differences around the budget. Once that process concludes, the budget is sent to the governor, who must sign it before the end of June. From that point, the budget is implemented, and the process begins anew.

While the state processes may seem to vary from local processes, some similarities do exist. Both systems benefit from significant input from stakeholders and from transparency throughout the process. Input at all steps of the process, from initial discussions to the culmination of the budget, ensures that the necessary voices are heard and that the budget that is crafted ideally serves the stakeholders, the communities, and, in the case of community colleges, the students that it is intended to serve.