The current state of budgetary affairs

It’s a new term, with a new load of budget cuts. Clackamas students, faculty and administration are about to see where the state funding sits for the next fiscal year.

Jeff Shaffer, CCC’s Vice President of Finance, Operations and Strategic Partnerships, is hopeful. 

“This is the most positive I’ve been going into a Budget-Advisory Group in 16 years,” Shaffer said. “There are over a million dollars in cuts this year. However, because of everyone getting their voices heard, and smart budgeting, they won’t be felt by many people.” 

Despite the positivity, there are concerns.

“It [the budget] may be an uphill battle. During the pandemic, a lot of funding was pushed through to special interest groups, with those groups experiencing a lot of success with their programs. The state realizes that many of those programs need to be maintained, but the funding for those may come at the detriment of other services, like higher education funding.”  

It should be noted that that enrollment is down nearly 30% from 2019 levels, 

While the structural forecast (a possible forecast purged of budgetary consequences) shows a 7.8% or $5 million deficit (a number predicted accurately last winter) CCC accels at retaining staff and because of that, benefits accrue with the IRS, to the tune of $5 million in credits the college can spread around to help balance the books.   

The process of making the yearly budget starts in early winter, with the state giving colleges a budget forecast. The schools then put together a list of possible cuts and a list of requests should the budget have a surplus. The process continues until late May or early June when the state releases the official budget. 

The budget advisory group at CCC, which met Thursday, April 6 via Zoom, is made up of administration, faculty and ASG students. 

The Coraggio Group, a strategic planning firm based in Portland, assisted in the organization and planning of the budget groups. Sarah Lechner, the principal consultant, was instrumental in the work Coraggio did with CCC

But where does an already cash-strapped institution get substantial funding required to hire an outside consultancy for 30 thousand dollars? Alissa Mahar, the former Vice President of College Services, left her position at CCC and Shaffer has been pulling double-duty in her place. With the salary already allocated and Shaffer doing his job as well as hers, it’s an easy solution to hire an outside consultant.  It’s a far smaller dollar amount than hiring a new vice president to fill Mahar’s shoes, so it’s actually a net-savings for the college to do it this way.   

“It was a great experience,” Lechner said. “I admired how inclusive the group’s process was. The Budget Advisory Group members came up with a way to thoughtfully consider every proposal put before them.” 

Coraggio served as Shaffer’s administrative assistant throughout the process, sending emails, scheduling, assisting in the facilitation of the subgroup breakout rooms, and essentially guiding the entire process at Shaffer and the college’s behest.

“They did everything that I didn’t have time for. If something needed to be done in preparation for the meetings, it could be delegated to Coraggio, and I knew it would get done,” said Shaffer.

Changes are still being made to the budget to address future funding problems. A raise in the tuition rates will be coming soon, and other fees that may accompany the increase. Shaffer also mentioned a bond measure coming in 2024 that would definitely help the situation – if voters deem it worthy and pass.

The Clackamas Print is watching the budget crisis as it unfolds, and will be providing an additional update to this story at the end of spring term.

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Gabriel Lucich