ECC faces ‘tough’ spending cuts for the 2020-21 budget

El Camino’s plans to save money was a big focal point in the school’s 2020-21 budget plan, which was presented by Iris Ingram, the ECC Vice President of Administrative Services, during a town hall meeting held on Aug. 27 via Zoom.

California’s economic state has declined as a direct result of COVID-19, causing the state’s surplus of $5 billion back in January to drop to a $54 billion deficit, as of May. This, in turn, has affected the El Camino’s budget for 2020-21 and beyond. according to Ingram.

“This is one of the toughest budget years I’ve seen in my 24-year-career in higher education. Worse in many ways than the [2008-2009] recession,” ECC President Dena Maloney said.

El Camino spends $10 million to $12 million per month on bills covering payroll, benefits, and utilities, but has just enough money in its reserves to get through the first half of this school year. Additionally, according to Ingram, the school’s deferrals of $29 million will be pushed back into the next fiscal year and the current budget gap of $14 million will increase to $25 million in the next twelve to eight months, posing a threat to the solvency of the school

In order to reduce how much they spend and to save money for this year and beyond, Ingram said that the school has made many cuts in its spending plans.

“The largest percent of cuts we have made have been in the area of operating expenses such as supplies, conferences, travel, contracts [and] consulting services,” Ingram said.

The Planning and Budget Committee (PBC) also recommended a list of actions that El Camino can take to reduce the amount spent from the budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year and beyond. Recommendations that have already been implemented include 8-day management furloughs, the reduction of many temporary non-classified (TNC) staff, and a hiring freeze.

While not all TNC positions were eliminated, many of them were, which affected departments around El Camino such as the Supplemental Instruction Program and the Center for the Arts by reducing their number of staff.

Luis Barrueta, the Supplemental Instruction (SI) Program Coordinator at El Camino, explained how these cuts affected him.

“I lost my program assistant since that was a TNC position so it’s put more burden on me to do all the work,” Barrueta said. “I can still hire tutors that are TNCs so that’s the only difference, but it does put a strain on the administration of the program.”

Similarly, many of the TNCs who worked for The Center for the Arts were eliminated due to the campus shut down.

“We employed over 100 part-time casual staff members that provided support in key areas like our ticket office, our event ushers, stage crew, and I had several people working part-time in our marketing and promotions area,” Director of The Center for the Arts Rick Christophersen said. “Sadly, those folks are now not working.”

Because there are still uncertainties in the state and federal budget, Ingram said that some of the cuts that were made to save money could remain permanent if the federal government does not come up with the money to repay the deferrals at the beginning of the next fiscal year.

Despite everything that El Camino is doing in their power to save money, the 2021-22 fiscal year is projected to be worse, limiting the school’s ability to borrow its way out of a deficit, according to Ingram.

“We will have to make some relatively drastic cuts. But as of right now, we do not know what those cuts will be,” Ingram said.