As the clock ticked toward a July 1 government shutdown, the Legislature approved a 2015-17 operating budget that won high praise for prioritizing higher education. Marty Brown, SBCTC executive director, issued this statement:
“We thank the Legislature and governor for prioritizing higher education in the final state operating budget. This plan recognizes the direct link between tuition levels and state funding for our colleges, and helps to rebuild Washington’s role in providing affordable, outstanding higher education.” (Read the full statement.)
Although the Legislature has wrapped up most of its work – including operating, transportation and capital budgets – lawmakers are still working overtime in a third special session.
The sticking point is funding for Initiative 1351, which requires K-12 class size reductions. The operating budget includes class size reductions for grades K-3, but does not reduce class sizes for the upper grades. The initiative is now state law, so the Legislature either needs to fund the initiative to the tune of about $2 billion, or suspend it through a two-thirds majority vote from both houses.
This third, 30-day special session ends July 27.
Final operating budget
The 2015-17 operating budget, embodied in SB 6052, was signed into law June 30. Below are highlights for the community and technical college system:
Tuition and financial aid
· The operating fee portion of tuition is reduced 5 percent for all levels of coursework beginning this fall. In fall 2016, the operating fee stays flat for 2-year degrees or shorter, but it decreases by an additional 15 percent for upper level coursework (applied bachelor’s degrees). Beginning fall 2017, operating fee increases cannot exceed the 14-year average percent increase in the median hourly wage.
· All projected lost tuition revenue is backfilled per the accompanying legislation (2ESSB 5954).
· State Need Grant funding was reduced to reflect lower tuition rates, as were the award amounts for public-college students.
· The policy is for all employees to receive a 3 percent salary increase in FY 2016 and 1.8 percent in FY 2017.
· Allows for the use of local funds to pay for faculty increments for the 2015-17 biennium only.
Other policy changes
· Allied Health: $425,000 annually for Seattle Colleges to operate the Allied Health Programs at Seattle Central.
· WATR Center Aerospace: $580,000 in FY 2016 and another $420,000 in FY 2017 for expansion of the fabrication composite wing incumbent worker training program.
· Bellevue Bachelor of Science in Computer Science: $750,000 in one-time funding for initial start-up costs and to develop a plan to offer a BS in computer science.
Final capital budget
The 2015-17 capital budget, embodied in HB 1115, was signed into law June 30. However, the measure authorizing the sale of bonds to finance the capital projects (ESHB 1166) still awaits action in the state Senate.
Below are highlights for the community and technical college system:
· The overall funding level for community and technical colleges is about 75 percent of the requested level.
· The budget funds projects in priority order down through the design for an Advanced Manufacturing Technologies building at Clover Park.
· The budget includes reductions of 4 percent to 11 percent in construction funding for individual projects.
· In addition to sufficient reappropriations for all major projects, the legislative budget includes limited reappropriations for minor work projects that were not completed in the 2013-15 biennium.
· The budget includes authority to use certificates of participation (COPs) backed by local funds as requested.
State Board, trustees confirmed by the Senate
Carol Landa-McVicker was appointed and Shaunta Hyde was reappointed and both confirmed to the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney was appointed to the State Board and awaits Senate confirmation.
Trustees confirmed for their first term:
· Teresita Batayola, Seattle Colleges
· Kathryn Bennett, Skagit Valley College
· Harry Carthum, Grays Harbor College
· Michael Ciraulo, Clark College
· Michael Deller, Everett Community College
· Rosalinda Mendoza, Yakima Valley Community College
· Stassney Obregon, Bellevue College
· Juanita Richards, Big Bend Community College
· Janice Wigen, Community Colleges of Spokane
· Doris Wood, Centralia College
· Merisa Heu-Weller; Bellevue College
· Douglass Jackson, Shoreline Community College
· Megan O’Bryan, Skagit Valley College
Trustees reappointed and confirmed:
· Daniel Altmayer, Highline College
· Sherry Armijo, Columbia Basin College
· Tim Douglas, Whatcom Community College
· Darcey Fugman-Small, Walla Walla Community College
· Anne Hamilton, Lake Washington Institute of Technology
· James Lowery, Centralia College
· Julie Miller, Cascadia College
· Tyler Page, Renton Technical College
· Jacqueline Rosenblatt, Pierce College District
· Patricia Whitefoot, Yakima Valley Community College
· Linda Cowan, Green River College
· Lawrence (Mike) Glenn, Peninsula College
The following bills of significance were passed and delivered to the governor:
2ESSB 5954 reduces the operating fee portion of tuition. Beginning in fall 2017, caps operating fee increases to no more than the 14-year average percent increase in the state median wage. (For details, see “final operating budget” above.) Awaits governor action.
HB 1706 grants permissive waivers for building fees and student and activity fees for active duty military personnel. Signed into law.
HB 1961 streamlines state statutes for community and technical colleges. Signed into law.
SB 5638 makes permanent, under law, an ongoing budget provision that allows students to take as few as three credit hours per quarter (or semester equivalent) to receive or renew State Need Grants. Signed into law.
ESSB 5355 modifies the definition of resident student to comply with federal requirements established by the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014. Awaits governor action.
The third special session is still underway. Legislative News will be posted again when significant action is taken.