With the passage of Proposition 30 in the 2012 November elections, California saw an increase in sales tax of a quarter of a cent and an increase in income tax on those earning more than $250,000 annually for the next seven years
Some of that extra funding from the added tax was slated to go to California community colleges to “provide continuing funding for local school districts and community colleges,” according to a document in the agenda of a Los Rios Board of Trustees meeting.
Proposition 30 created the Education Protection Account in which the funds from the temporary tax revenues could be received and disbursed to respective community college districts.
These districts “have sole authority to determine how the monies received from the EPA are spent,” according to that same meeting document. However, the district cannot use the money towards administrative salaries and benefits and must make the determination in an open session of a public meeting.
In 2012-13, the Los Rios Community College District received $38,547,050 from 16 percent of funding that the EPA allotted to community colleges, according to the meeting document.
In the 2013-14 school year, the EPA will pump $688,710,000 into the community college system and the funds will be distributed quarterly, according to a document from the meeting.
Los Rios will receive $33,318,264 of those funds, but the amount could change as the year goes on, according to the meeting document.
With that fact, comes the question of what Cosumnes River College is doing with their piece of the pie?
Deputy Chancellor of Finance and Administration for the LRCCD Jon Sharpe recommended that the funds from Proposition 30 be used for supporting instructional salaries. LRCCD Chancellor Brian King approved that recommendation for consideration during the meeting.
Los Rios College Federation of Teachers President Dean Murakami laid out what the Proposition 30 funding covers in an interview via email.
“Faculty got a 2 percent bonus, but that was one time only, not a permanent salary increase. In addition, it was paid out of reserves, not from Prop 30 funds,” Murakami said. “All Prop 30 funds go toward our formula with 80 percent to salaries and benefits and 20 percent for operation.”
Murakami said there was a reason for those breakdowns in the funds.
“There was not enough tax revenue generated to provide any more than what was removed,” Murakami said. “So we did not gain revenues for community colleges, but it did stop the yearly budget [cuts] we have endured the past five years. We would have had very large budget cuts if Prop 30 did not pass.”
In the Board of Trustees meeting on Sept. 11, that very issue was discussed.
In the meeting, it was stated that since Los Rios did not cut courses as quickly as other districts, classes would not have to be brought back as quickly. Murakami expanded on this in the email interview.
“While Los Rios did reduce classes, we did not completely eliminate summer or have as many class cuts as others,” Murakami said. “Instead we did use some of the district reserves to hold back on class cuts or make reductions to salaries. Now that we no longer have to make cuts for this year and actually [have] a slight increase we have to use that surplus to stop borrowing from our reserves.
“So we will not be able to increase the number of classes as quickly as others. However, we think that preventing a steep roller coaster approach to budgeting by prudently using reserves is better for students and employees,” Murakami said.
The final determination of how the funds are spent must also be published on the district’s website of accounting and an annual audit will verify whether the funds have been properly disbursed.
Cosumnes River College LRCFT President Jason Newman said in a phone interview the 2 percent payment at the end of summer was a “monetary incentive” for faculty because they have not gotten a cost of living increase in the last five to seven years.
“In general, the faculty are happy that we are not having to cut classes or turn as many students away as in previous years,” Newman said. “Faculty morale had been sinking over the past couple of years because of the downturn in the economy and the loss of students and reduction in access.”