After consultant Kathy Blackwood’s presentation on the five-year budget projections for Gavilan College at the Jan. 7 session of the Board of Trustees Retreat, Gavilan President and Superintendent Pedro Avila told BenitoLink that the district is in good financial shape—and he plans to keep it that way.
“When it comes to the projections, I just want everybody to know that we are being very conservative,” he said. “Everything that we want to do will work out, assuming the state will fund us at the levels that they’ve promised. My goal is to ensure we are never in a situation where we have to make difficult decisions around the budget.”
According to Avila, the proposed budget guidelines will allow for a two-month—or 17%—reserve and a set-aside of $2 million.
That is a far cry from previous budgets which projected deficits as high as $9.7 million and reserves which fell to less than 5% and put the college at risk of being taken over by the state two years ago.
Gavilan’s budget surplus results from the final rounds of Educational and Cultural Affairs grants related to COVID-19 relief, which allows the college to claim 5,202 full-time students rather than their actual attendance of 3,836 students.
“The state had lots and lots of money this year,” Blackwood said. “They put a lot of additional ongoing funding in this year’s budget, and that has really made a big difference.”
With further emergency funds unlikely, Blackwood said there would need to be an increase in full-time students by at least 4,401 in the 2024-25 school year to meet the projections.
Blackwood stressed that the five-year projections were not predictions and were based on assumptions like the increase in the student body. Other assumptions included estimates of inflation rates and utility costs, cost of living adjustments, and no compensation increases beyond those negotiated for the 2022-23 year.
Another assumption is that there would be no change in the student-centered funding formula, which is how California’s community colleges receive state money.
The formula has three components. The first is a base allocation, which is determined by the number of full-time students.
The second is a supplemental allocation determined by a count of low-income students who received financial help such as Pell or California College Promise grants.
The third is a student success allocation, a bonus paid for students who have achieved an academic milestone, such as an associate or bachelor’s degree, completion of Career and Technical Education units, or transfer to a four-year university.
The budget projections also include some new spending, with the largest item being $4.1 million for a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics center to be financed over three years.
Staff increases are also part of the budget, with six new faculty members to be hired by fall 2023, three employees to be hired for the San Benito Campus in 2024-25, and six other positions created between 2022-23 and 2023-24. So far, the only position filled is for a new soccer coach.
The budget also takes into consideration benefits for all employees including a 1.5% salary increase that became effective July 1, 2022, on top of a 3% increase already budgeted, and a one-time bonus of $750.
The college will not know the exact amount of state funding they will receive until Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget—which will be released next week—is considered by the legislature, revised in May, and adopted in June.
The final budget for the college will be adopted in September.
The intricacies of state funding leave much room for speculation as to how much money the college will get, but Blackwood is optimistic that the school is on a healthy financial track.
“I can never promise anything but the projections look very good,” she said. “We tried to be as conservative as we could reasonably be for the board to have the money to do what they want. They need to grow in the number of students, but they’re putting money towards that. I think that, honestly, the projections look the best they’ve been for years for this college.”
We need your help. Support local, nonprofit news! BenitoLink is a nonprofit news website that reports on San Benito County. Our team is committed to this community and providing essential, accurate information to our fellow residents. It is expensive to produce local news and community support is what keeps the news flowing. Please consider supporting BenitoLink, San Benito County’s public service, nonprofit news.