By Summer Tessneer
Amarillo College is facing a new challenge as it responds to lower numbers in enrollment and a potential decrease in state funding. Jeanette Nelson, the budget manager for AC, said these events could mean a possible $1.5 million shortfall.
The budgeting process began in January. “It’s a very team-oriented project,” Nelson said. “Everybody’s involved. Each department, each chair, each dean, up to the cabinet-level, and also the reagents who are all involved in the process. We start with what we do know, which is an anticipated reduction in enrollment and an anticipated reduction in state funding. We take our most conservative estimate and work with that with the hopes that it won’t be quite that severe.”
According to Chris Sharp, the vice president of business affairs, the cut only goes so deep.
“The proposed budget cuts will have no effect on personnel, students, or programs. We’re asking departments to cut 5% from their non-personnel accounts. These would be expenditures like travel, equipment, supplies,” Sharp said. “We are planning for great things to happen at AC and don’t expect the reduction in the 2022 budget to have any effect on students, faculty, staff or the services we provide.”
Becky Easton, the dean of the liberal arts department, said AC’s preparedness has made the budgeting process more bearable.
“Budgeting for the college is always stressful for me, but the chairs and coordinators have done a good job of saving money where they can. They understand why we need to be especially frugal right now. Their careful planning has helped me to be less stressed out about the budget cuts than I would otherwise have been,” Easton said. “We will have spots where managing the cutbacks will be difficult, but worrying doesn’t help. I would rather look for solutions than waste time worrying.”
When making budget decisions, officials say the students are their top priority.
“Our leadership cares, and they’re going to do everything they can to make these cuts without the students seeing a difference in our services. That is our president’s No. 1 goal,” Nelson said. “He has such a passion. It’s an inspiration to watch him and see him and the regions and everybody just be so concerned in such a good way, and they have such a deep interest in the institution.”
The college’s current budget sits at $68 million.
“We won’t know the state’s portion until June or July,” Nelson said. “We do have a good tax base in Amarillo that’s been very strong and healthy, and so we’re hoping that that will offset some of the reduction.”
The final amount of the overall budget decrease will not be made official until sometime later this year.