Reserves not enough to pay deficit

Pierce is facing a budget deficit for the first time in more than 30 years.

Faculty discussed the issue Nov. 19 at Academic Senate.

Interim President Larry Buckley said $2 million needs to be cut to fix the deficit.

Angela Belden, instructor of psychology, said Pierce has used its reserves in the past to fix the deficit, but they won’t be able to do that this year.

“I keep saying we got to brace for impact because we haven’t had a budget deficit in a really long time,” Belden said. “We’ve been fiscally solvent for really long time. We had a really nice cushion built up that has really saved us over the past number of years and our reserves are now depleted. We’re now looking at the point where we’re not going to be able to fix this deficit with reserves this year.”

Part of the reason Pierce has a deficit is because of money that is not being used for what it’s supposed to be used for, according to Buckley.

“A part of the challenge is just figuring out where money is that we can move to places where it’s not,” Buckley said. “For example, there are a lot of positions that are budgeted, but there’s nobody in them. So we have to make some decisions about the long term nature of the needs for those kinds of positions.”

Buckley believes it won’t affect Pierce in terms of staff hiring or students in the classroom.

“We might see it in scheduling. We’ll see it in classrooms size. We’ll see it in the number of courses that are being offered,” Buckley said. “But I don’t think it’s going to adversely affect access for students. It’s not going to adversely affect quality of instruction.”

Belden said she was unsure what the end result will be but that it could end up having an affect on students.

“The administration and the budget committee may do some things with course offerings which may shift what happens with students,” Belden said. “There are things like when we have difficulty paying for materials for students, instructional materials or anything like that. That can be a problem when we don’t have the money for things and that can obviously trickle down for students in a big way.”

She also said multiple steps are being taken to try and solve the problem.

“The whole budget team is working on trying to figure out exactly what our deficit is going to be and exactly what they can do to mitigate that deficit in any way,” Belden said. “And so far they’ve instituted a form that has to be filled out from any administration when they have financial requests. So that form is going to help with transparency and to keep people accountable for the money they spend.”

Belden called for the district to fund Pierce better to help solve the problem.

“The district does not fund us at a level that is sustainable,” Belden said. “We did find in the last funding model that came a number of years ago, it really hit Pierce hard and we haven’t figured out how to adjust under the new funding.”

Buckley said Pierce will need to adjust and not let this drag the school down.

“I want to believe that when you face economic challenges, it’s an opportunity to do business a little bit differently,” Buckley said. “There’s a challenge, and you can either sink when there’s challenges or you can figure out how to swim better.”