AC loses millions in wake of budget cuts

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Amarillo College tightens up it’s budget after statewide legislative budget cuts earlier this year

By David Gisch

Amarillo College faces a tight budget after a series of extensive cuts earlier this year.

Statewide legislative budget cuts left AC with about $3.2 million less in funding than the institution received last year, said AC President Dr. Paul Matney. Group health insurance and retirement contributions also were dropped by the state, forcing AC to pick up the cost.

While creating a budget for the next two years, AC budget managers focused on cutting down spending while boosting revenue. Matney said despite the cuts, the college strives to serve the community’s needs.

“Cuts were made across the board to share the burden while creating a ‘new normal,'” he said.

AC decreased about 6 percent of the total personnel footprint by employing 41 fewer faculty and staff members this semester.

In the spring, a voluntary retirement incentive program was offered to 78 qualified faculty members. Twenty-six accepted the optional plan, which entitled them to a lump-sum incentive payment equal to $50 for each month of service at AC or the former Texas State Technical Institute campus.

In addition, 10 employees retired or resigned and two employees were laid off. Thirteen funded but vacant positions were released from the budget.

Of 51 positions affected, only 10 were replaced, Matney said.

Extra savings were caught by making campuses more energy-efficient, shutting down the cafeterias on the West and Washington Street campuses and cutting AC police hours to 16 hours a day, six days a week. Until Sept. 1, AC police patrolled campuses and surrounding communities 24/7.

A tuition and fee increase implemented this semester was estimated to raise about $2.9 million to fight the loss in state funds. On March 22, the AC board of regents approved a plan to raise tuition and fees for in-district students by $7 per credit hour. The board also approved larger increases in tuition and fees for out-of-district and out-of-state students.

“I feel that even with the increase in tuition, AC offers quality classes for a reasonable price,” said AJ Pagitt, a nursing major.

Child care and dental fees were increased. Rent for family housing on the East Campus rose $30 a month.

“We may be in an economic crisis, but this is no time to take on a ‘hunker-down’ mentality,” Matney said.

To take an active role in the community by educating to fill empty jobs and prepare students for the future, AC will continue to offer programs where there is a need, Matney said.

New programs in sonography, renewable solar energy and utility power worker certification will be offered this semester.


Originally published: Wednesday, September 7, 2011

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