BMCC budget reductions make dent in 2020-21 budget gap; more cuts to come

PENDLETON – Blue Mountain Community College announced to employees this week $1.76 million in reductions to its 2020-2021 budget, with more cuts on the way. The reductions begin to address a significant budget gap that could potentially grow to more than $4 million due to the impacts of COVID-19.

In April, the College announced a $2.8 million budget shortfall, and the Board of Education approved a $2 per credit tuition increase for 2020-2021, with the intent to increase tuition at the same rate for the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 academic years. However, since that time, the impacts of COVID-19 on BMCC have increased – spring term enrollment declined 27%, dual credit and early college credit took a hit when K-12 students were forced to stay home, and the state has indicated it may make a mid-biennium cut to the Community College Support Fund, which supports the BMCC General Fund. This mid-biennium cut is estimated to roll back 8.5% of the CCSF from all community colleges in the state – about $1.3 million for BMCC – all of which would need to be realized in the second year of the biennium (2020-2021).

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act has provided more than $966,000 in support to BMCC, half of which goes directly to students, and half of which the College can utilize on COVID-19 related expenses. These funds, however, cannot be used to offset a General Fund budget gap.

BMCC is addressing the shortfall through a multi-pronged approach: cut expenses, increase revenues and increase efficiencies. Every unit and program at the College has had conversations since January with employees about proposals for reductions. The first round of reductions ($1.76 million) is to the College’s materials and services budgets (travel, supplies, professional services, equipment, dues), personnel savings that do not impact current employees (reduction of vacant positions, salary savings, non-contracted faculty pool reduction), and other reductions such as a decrease in staff development funds.

In addition, the first round of reductions also includes freezing four faculty instruction positions that were to be hired in 2020-2021 following retirements, as well as freezing the hiring of the Vice President of Student Affairs position (the interim role in that position ends June 30, 2020).

The second round of reductions is expected to be announced later this month or in early June, and will include employed positions. BMCC is working with administrators, employee union leadership, and Human Resources to prepare for these reductions.

“My commitment is to ensure BMCC can continue to serve the students, our communities and local industries of our region for many years to come,” said BMCC President Dennis Bailey-Fougnier. “Doing so will require continued creativity to shape the future of BMCC, and I appreciate the flexibility, compassion and strategic thinking of our employees as we take on this challenge together.”