I mentioned yesterday that I was going through the audited financial statements for WCC. I was looking for information about the growth of WCC’s administrative costs. The statement from FY01 – twenty years ago – showed the Maintenance Fund at $1,895,000. In today’s dollars, that would be $2.783M of dedicated maintenance money.
WCC spends nowhere near that on maintenance today. In FY20, the maintenance budget was $750,000. WCC also has a “deferred maintenance” (neglect) fund to complete maintenance projects that should have been done earlier but were not.
Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t it seem a little stupid to fund neglect remediation at nearly 3.5 times the rate of regular maintenance – which – if performed on time – would negate the need for the special neglect fund altogether? Just admit that a campus that has 1.2M square feet of space should probably devote more than $0.63 per square foot for maintenance?
So here’s the truly ridiculous part. Earlier this year, the Administration proposed reducing the maintenance budget for FY21 to $400,000. That’s $0.33 per square foot.
To be clear, standard commercial building maintenance and operations costs typically range between $1.60-$2.25 per square foot. At that rate, the WCC maintenance budget should be somewhere in the range of $1.9M-$2.7M per year.
$0.33 is wholly unacceptable. It might even be dangerous. For an institution that is one of the best-funded community colleges in the State of Michigan, the administration should be able to come up with more maintenance money at WCC. Washtenaw County taxpayers will send $50/sq ft ($60M) in property taxes to WCC this year. And that’s just one part of the revenues. The entire WCC budget is something in the neighborhood of $110M. WCC is funded at nearly $92/sq foot, and the Administration can only spare $0.33 of that for maintenance?
Trustees should not compromise on maintenance money
What does a $0.33/sq ft maintenance budget look like? Assuming all buildings on campus receive equal attention, here’s how the maintenance money would be distributed using a $400,000 budget:
|Business Education Building||41,673||$13,750|
|Family Education Building||8,923||$2,950|
|Great Lakes RTC||21,946||$7,250|
|Health and Fitness Center||76,831||$25,350|
|Landau Skilled Trades||7,362||$2,425|
|Liberal Arts Bldg||180,757||$59,650|
|Morris Lawrence Building||$72,789||$24,000|
|Student Center Building||164,598||$54,300|
Does any of this sound reasonable at all?
The taxpayers of Washtenaw County did not build a resource like WCC only to have an Administration utterly disregard the facilities. Where are the Trustees on this issue? It is typical to describe maintenance costs on a per-square-foot basis. The Trustees cannot accept budgetary numbers that are pulled from thin air, or are firmly rooted in wishful thinking.
This is what naturally happens when the Board of Trustees does not insist that the Administration prioritize the care and maintenance of the facilities. The Administration fritters away the budget on yet another Vice President, while the buildings fall down from lack of maintenance.
We cannot rely on this Administration to prioritize the maintenance of the College. This Administration has demonstrated that its top priority is self-expansion. And we apparently cannot rely on the Trustees to take action to protect our 55-year investment in education.
We don’t need “yes men” on the Board of Trustees. Instead, we need minimum budgetary standards for maintenance money at WCC. And Trustees who hold the Administration accountable for its lousy spending decisions.
Photo Credit: Francis Mariana , via Flickr