Planning and Budgeting Committee to remain ‘transparent’ by posting approved budget allocation

During the Planning and Budgeting Committee meeting on Nov. 19, the members discussed putting the approved allocating budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year on its website after continued public request to see it.

Co-chair of the Planning and Budgeting Committee (PBC) and Vice President of Administrative Services, Iris Ingram, said they can formulate a simple version of the resource allocation on the website for those who don’t want to read the minutes.

The detailed spreadsheet portrays information regarding the cuts and resources made.

Ingram said the resources didn’t change much year-to-year, and the state does not give them a permanent budget except for personnel cost. She also said that personnel makes up 88% of the budget, and what is left over is spent on their utilities and supplies.

“The number of the college, meaning the budget requests, has always exceeded the resources that the chancellor’s office of the state has said we are entitled to,” Ingram said. “So that means that we’ve got to bring the college’s budget request or resource allocation requests in line with the existing set of resources.”

The PBC agreed to place the detailed document on the website with the summarized document’s link until further discussion.

“Having a high level simplified report and link to the spreadsheet would solve the issue of people wanting more information,” VP Finance and Special Projects Joshua Troesh said.

Ingram said transparency is “in the eye of the beholder”, she added the easier way of being transparent to the community is by putting the whole lengthy document on the website.

“The issue about what element you choose to show in the summary [is that it] might reflect a biased from my perspective [and] what I think people need to know versus the perspective of someone who is not that familiar with the process and what do they think they need to know,” Ingram said.

According to Ingram, the format used to share the allocation process information on the website last year was taken down because ECC President Dena Maloney “didn’t like the format.”

“We posted a document last fall, but it was determined that people could not understand it, it had too much information and it was too complicated for people to read,” Ingram said.

Ingram said it had been requested in the past to post the allocation request document on the PBC website, so the community can view what has been granted to different departments at ECC.

Ingram said that last year, the committee was going through a lot, such as dealing with the upcoming budget crisis and the pandemic, so this issue was not their highest priority.

“This is the second year now where we’ve asked the same information and have not really gotten guidance,” Ingram said. “What may end up happening is that I will decide what the format should be and decide what information should be posted and then just post it.”

Viviana Unda, PBC co-chair and director of Institutional Research and Planning, said they wanted to be as transparent to the community as they can be.

“It [the spreadsheet] requires an enormous amount of work, but at the same time, we are trying to be transparent with the college in terms of how the funds are being [used],” Unda said.

Ingram said this would be the second year in a row where people have complained about a lack of transparency. Still, Unda said that without first providing the tools for people to understand the information, simply posting the documents is “no help.”

“I’m still waiting and hoping I’m going to see [some] feedback. But if I don’t, then we’re going to put something up on our website so people can see it,” Ingram said.