AC’s state-funded budget slashed
By Ryan Hershey
Amarillo College, along with every community college in Texas, is dealing with budget cuts from the Texas Legislature despite many assurances made previously by lawmakers.
Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, AC’s president, said he isn’t pleased with the decreased funding. “I think what disappointed me about this particular session is that the state had a huge surplus,” Lowery-Hart said. “And when they divvied up that surplus, they gave a significant increase to universities, but cut community colleges. And in the legislative process, they voted for us to have increases in funding. But then the House and the Senate went to conference, which those meetings are private. What came out of that conference that got codified into law, removed all of the increases that had been voted for us,” Lowery-Hart said.
Lowery-Hart said that fortunately AC administrators have anticipated and prepared for these kinds of cuts as they have become a pattern with state legislators, who meet every two years to decide on funding appropriations. “We got cut $2 million. It’s over a biennium, so it’s a million dollars for each academic year, for the next two years,” he said. “So a total of $2 million that we have to make up for and there’s no changing it. There’s just changing what we do in preparation for the next legislative session.”
“We’re prepared,” Chris Sharp, vice president of business affairs, said. “Like this last budget cycle, we asked departments to cut 5% of their non-personnel budget. So for this upcoming budget, we’ll probably do the same thing.”
In terms of where these cuts will be applied, the college faculty and staff are adamant that student welfare will remain the No. 1 priority and therefore will not be affected.
“Whatever shortfall we do have within our institutional funds, there are other departments who will aggressively go out for grants and write some sort of grant proposal expressing our needs and then we just use that money in place of institutional funds to pay for those needs so that we still can provide what the students need,” Jeanette Nelson, budget manager, said.
Despite these efforts, faculty and staff may be forced to endure certain limitations due to the budgetary concerns.
“With AC’s budget, 75% of it is made up of personnel benefits,” Sharp said. “So we don’t really want to touch that. So that leaves a small window of things that you can cut. Supplies, equipment, travel and training. That’s all on the table for being cut.”