Department money on the chopping block

Allen Carter

A further attempt to cut spending in community colleges has resulted in a district-wide push-back of department purchasing deadlines.

A memo from the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) gave schools until Feb. 28 to make any last-minute department purchases for the 2007-08 fiscal year, which ends on June 30.

To make sure that all school purchases got in on time, Pierce College set the school deadline for Feb. 19. The purchasing deadline was previously set for May 5, nearly three months later.

“The deadlines coincide with budget cuts at the state level,” said Ken Takeda, vice president of administration.

Takeda said the goal is to get departments to plan ahead when purchasing supplies and materials so that departments do not overspend later on in the year, which will hopefully save the district money.

Still, a lot of department heads spent Feb. 19 with their faces buried in supply catalogs, trying to get in last-second purchases.

For most departments, the date change is more of an inconvenience than a financial problem because the memo was sent out on Feb. 5, giving departments less than two weeks to make purchases.

“To tell us 10 days in advance that we have to spend our money, it’s absurd,” said Dr. Isidore Goodman, the chemistry department chair.

The chemistry and other science departments have some of the largest budget accounts in the school. Goodman said that it becomes more difficult to crunch three months’ worth of purchase planning into a two-week period for large accounts, compared to smaller departments that have considerably smaller budgets.

While it may spur on a purchasing blitz, some of those smaller departments won’t be feeling as much of a pinch.

“It’s disappointing, sure. But it’s not devastating,” said Edward Mazeika, the psychology department chair.

Mazeika said that while it may be a little bit of an inconvenience, the results of the budget cuts could have been worse. In previous years with budget problems, there was also talk of layoffs.

However, Takeda said that shouldn’t be a problem for Pierce because the school has traditionally been very financially responsible.

“Pierce is one of the only two colleges in the district operating…with a surplus,” said Takeda. LACCD is comprised of nine schools.

Takeda wants to ensure that the number one goal is still to make sure business is taken care of in the classrooms. He said that the deadlines are only to curb the extra spending, but the essentials will not be ignored.

After Feb. 19, any emergency purchases will have to be approved by Pierce President Robert Garber.

“If a department needs something to keep classes running, we’ll pay for it,” said Takeda. “We just may not buy a year’s supply of yellow pads.”

Any additional department splurging won’t happen again until the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.