All things considered, the FY2021 WCC budget paints a decent revenue picture. While many community colleges around the nation struggle with massive cuts to state aid and declining enrollments, WCC is keeping its head above water.
Washtenaw County’s property tax collection in FY2021 is expected to come in at about $59M.The new State of Michigan budget contains no cuts to WCC’s State appropriation from last year. Fall tuition revenues are short by about $1.05M. While Winter classes will remain online for the most part, WCC will also begin to reap the benefits of the Futures for Frontliners program. In addition, the State budget includes $30M in funding for Michigan Reconnect, which provides financial aid to adults who return to a community college.
The WCC budget includes something that many other community college budgets don’t: substantial local tax support. Some community colleges, including many in Michigan, depend upon the State appropriation as a primary source of revenue. Other community colleges receive their funding through their local county budget. As a result, student tuition at these schools is higher, which often puts a college degree out of reach for the poorest community residents.
Without a doubt, local support makes a major difference for WCC students. Local support enables WCC to offer one of the lowest in-district tuition rates and one of the lowest fee structures in the State of Michigan. There’s no real reason WCC should be trying to stave off a structural deficit, except that the WCC Administration makes poor spending decisions, and the WCC Board of Trustees approves them without question. Much of WCC’s current and looming financial problems are self-inflicted.
WCC Trustees owe the taxpayers a duty of loyalty
It would behoove the WCC Trustees to start taking better care of the enormous gift of local taxpayer support. Ways in which they could accomplish this include:
- Refusing to build buildings the College doesn’t need and the Administration won’t take care of.
- Not using the General Fund to repay general-obligation long-term bonds.
- Not forcing students to pay for unnecessary construction.
- Taking care of the buildings we’ve invested so heavily in. (A $300K maintenance budget does not honor our investment.) And neglect is so much more expensive.
- Stopping unchecked administrative growth. Seriously, the Law of Diminishing Returns applies – even to Executive Management.
- Avoiding revenue-generation schemes. Stick to educating local residents. If the Administration “needs” more money, tell them to find it in the budget or do without.
- Not issuing no-bid contracts. (Ever.) Did the Administration even negotiate a price with Ellucian, or did they just accept Ellucian’s terms?
- Placing the welfare of the students and the taxpayers ahead of the requests of the Administration. WCC Trustees occupy their seats strictly because the voters put them there. The WCC Trustees owe the voters – not the WCC Administration – a duty of loyalty.
- Evaluating spending requests carefully instead of just signing off on them. If a Trustee never votes NO on anything, they are NOT doing the job they were elected to do.
- Not allowing the Administration to waste millions on a new website, only to throw it away.
- Leaving theatrics out of the Board meetings.
Washtenaw County voters should not tolerate WCC Trustees’ disregard
Washtenaw County taxpayers get very little respect from the WCC Board of Trustees. It’s time to start replacing Board members who believe that the taxpayers are here just to pay the bills.
Photo Credit: Damian Gadal, via Flickr