Education / Schools

Gavilan College approves tentative budget for 2020-21

With a high deficit, the district is scrambling to reduce costs.

On June 9, the Gavilan College Board of Trustees voted to adopt its tentative 2020-21 budget (PDF below). The community college is ending the current fiscal year with a $1.5 million deficit. However, given the new state budget, the projected deficit for the coming year is $9.7 million. Trustee Irma Gonzalez, one of two board members representing San Benito County, was the lone vote against approving the budget.

Trustees and staff discussed several options for reducing costs, some of which were decided before the June 9 meeting:

  • Trustees will take a 5% pay cut and have given up other benefits.
  • Superintendent/President Kathleen Rose and senior staff have declined her raise of 5%, and she will not access her monthly expense account at this time.  
  • Some open positions might not be filled. Payroll accounts for 86% of the budget.
  • The Morgan Hill campus will not be funded, as revenue is not meeting overhead. The community college district will still serve the city through high schools and other programs. 
  • Current health benefit funding will be taken from the retirement fund. Trustee Gonzalez voted against this measure as it has been done three times in the past. The last time was in 2018.
  • The Coyote Valley campus has been losing money and the district will be working on a joint powers agreement with Santa Clara County Training Academy. 

On May 27, Gonzalez asked Rose to bring in a state Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT), which according to its website “assists and provides guidance to local educational agencies in the areas of business and financial management practices” as a preventative measure and serves in an advisory role. Rose told trustees on June 9 that FCMAT will be pursued at a later date. 

Rose told BenitoLink that many community college districts in California are operating with a high deficit because of the upcoming state budget, which is affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are looking at bringing everyone’s voice to the table, including shared governance and the Board of Trustees,” Rose said, noting they are now meeting weekly. “As the college president, I have to get beyond the number and into how do we respond.”

Asked about her opposition to the budget and proposed budget solutions, Gonzalez said her priority is ensuring student success.

“In my opinion, the only way to assure student success is to assure fiscal solvency and stability,” she said, adding that she voted against the deficit budget because she felt it was “not fiscally prudent” and that the community college was “banking on the federal government coming to our rescue.”

“This deficit budget,” Gonzalez continued, “was presented to the board in spite of the fact that the evening before, at our budget workshop, we were advised by highly respected fiscal consultants from the Community College League of California that some difficult decisions would have to be made early on. Furthermore, those that make those difficult decisions early, will be that much more ahead of what is going to be a difficult path.”

Gonzalez said, “We were told that we are looking at a five-year recovery period. I believe it’s prudent to plan right now, and adopting a deficit budget is not my idea of a prudent plan during this historic level budget challenge that we are facing.” 

BenitoLink asked Trustee Jeanie Wallace how the budget changes could affect San Benito County.

“Services offered to San Benito County students will continue, and our county will not be specifically targeted in an effort to save money,” Wallace said. “For the foreseeable future, most classes are being offered online. Once on-site classes are again offered, we anticipate reopening the San Benito site along with the Gilroy campus.”

Wallace also said that progress on the proposed San Benito campus known as Fairview Corners will continue on schedule.

“That funding was secured when the voters passed Measure X,” she said.

A public meeting regarding Fairview Corners is scheduled for June 23 at 1:30 p.m. on Zoom.

Gavilan College is also holding weekly budget committee meetings every Monday at 5 p.m. The public is welcome to join these meetings on Zoom.

Access Gavilan College’s Zoom meetings here.

At this time, the Gavilan’s previous Zoom meetings are not available online.


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Carmel de Bertaut

Carmel has a BA in Natural Sciences/Biodiversity Stewardship from San Jose State University and an AA in Communications Studies from West Valley Community College. She reports on science and the environment, arts and human interest pieces. Carmel has worked in the ecological and communication fields and is an avid creative writer and hiker. She has been reporting for BenitoLink since May, 2018 and covers Science and the Environment and Arts and Culture.