Friday, April 10, 2015

Another bill deadline approaches, budget talks continue

The Legislature is quickly approaching an April 15 cutoff date for House bills to pass out of the Senate, and for Senate bills to pass out of the House.

A system-request bill (HB 1706) to waive building and student activity fees for active duty military personnel has passed the House and is now in the Senate Rules committee awaiting a floor vote. Another system-request bill to streamline statutes (HB 1961) has passed both chambers and awaits the governor’s signature.

Meanwhile, budget writers continue to work on 2015-2017 operating and capital budget proposals.

Senate Ways and Means approves capital plan

April 9 — The Senate Ways and Means Committee approved its version of the capital budget, which is now in the Rules Committee to be scheduled for a floor vote (EHB 1115).
·         The proposal provides $269.5 million for community and technical college capital projects, which is 73 percent of the system’s overall request of $367 million.
·         Similar to the governor’s proposal, it follows the system priority list but funds only the first 16 of 24 projects on the list.
·         Similar to capital proposals by the governor and the House, the plan cuts funding for construction projects on the list by 5 to 13 percent.

Community and technical college system representatives shared concerns at an April 8 hearing.

Dr. Jean Hernandez, Edmonds Community College president, urged full funding of the system’s capital priorities list, including design funds for a new Science, Engineering and Technology Building at that college.

“This is a building that will allow us to both address the capacity and the need for the science areas, including allied health, engineering, natural sciences, materials science and construction programs at the college,” she said. “In addition, it will allow us to train teachers in the science and math fields through our partnership with Central Washington University.”

Stuart Trippel, Shoreline Community College executive director for business and student support services, discussed the need for design funding for a new Allied Health, Science and Manufacturing project. The project will replace five, one-story buildings that are about 50 years old with one, four-story building for STEM programs that serve educational needs between Seattle and Tacoma. With full funding, the system can “move forward with first-rate projects advanced by the State Board for the 2015-2017 biennium,” he said.

Bruce Riveland, Olympic College vice president for administrative services, shared concerns about additional reductions in construction funding for a College Instruction Center. The project replaces an aging art, music and theater building with a single new multipurpose facility for health occupations and other programs.

“By going through OFM’s budget evaluation study last year, we validated the program needs and the cost estimate and have already cut millions of dollars from the original project budget. Further trimming the funding…doesn’t account for the infrastructure necessary for this project.”

Steve Ward, Centralia College vice president for finance and administration, expressed appreciation for construction funds for a new Student Services building, but explained that the proposed funding is significantly less than the estimated costs of construction. “We’ve kept the costs consistent with our design phase request and the project is now ready to bid. Our students and community are already contributing $5 million to this project and the proposed substitute is a $1.5 million cut to the construction budget.”

Senate Ways & Means hears bill on dual credit opportunities

April 6 Marty Brown, SBCTC executive director, testified before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on dual credit opportunities provided by colleges and universities for high school students (E2HB 1546). The bill now prioritizes funding for students of low-income and those attending small and rural high schools. It also clarifies the definitions of “Running Start” and “College in the High School” dual-credit programs.

We strongly support dual credit programs as a key to higher education access,” Brown said. “We support the subsidies that are provided here, we support eliminating the use of Running Start funds for courses offered in the high school, and we support the small and rural school provisions.”

The bill was passed out of the Ways and Means Committee April 7 and is now in the Rules Committee awaiting further action.

Coming up later this week

The House and Senate will continue to vote on each other’s bills next week to meet the April 15 cutoff date for floor passage. Budget discussions will heat up as the Legislature counts down to the April 26 end of regular session.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Operating, capital budgets take center stage

The House and Senate focused on their proposed operating and budget plans last week. The House sent both its operating and capital budgets to the Senate. Meanwhile, the Senate voted into the night on its own operating budget plan, only to put it on hold until this afternoon. The Senate has not yet introduced a capital budget proposal.

Senate to resume floor action on operating budget today

April 3 — The Senate worked overnight and into the early morning hours on Friday, April 3 to pass its version of the operating budget. Fatigued, the Senate decided to resume the debate on this afternoon. For details on SB 5077 and a summary of earlier testimony, see the March 31 entry below.
House approves proposed operating budget

April 2 – The House of Representatives approved its operating budget proposal and sent it to the Senate. Contained in ESHB 1106, the plan:

·         Freezes tuition and provides institutional support to help offset inflation and other costs.

·         Includes funding for the State Need Grant. For 2013-14, 33,557 eligible students were unable to receive a State Need Grant due to insufficient funds. Just more than half of those students — 18,774 — attended community and technical colleges.

·         Fully funds collective bargaining agreements, including salary increases, as negotiated by the governor’s office: 3% the first year, 1.8% the second (including Highline College and Yakima Valley Community College). Those increases are also given to I-732-covered employees. Remaining compensation items (health benefit contributions, pension contributions) are also fully funded.

·         Provides funding to expand the MESA Community and Technical College Program to seven more colleges, bringing the total to 13. The program helps under-represented students succeed in college and pursue STEM careers.

Two floor amendments addressed topics that had previously received testimony from the community and technical college system.   

·         One amendment, supported by the college system, would allow the Department of Corrections to use existing state funds to offer associate degrees in prison.

·         The other amendment would allow, for the 2015-2017 biennium, community and technical colleges to use local funds to pay for increments when the state fails to do so. System representatives had previously expressed concern that this would draw funds away from programs and services needed by students and use one-time funds for ongoing expenses.

Earlier in the week (March 30), SBCTC Executive Director Marty Brown and Pierce College District Chancellor Michele Johnson testified before the House Appropriations Committee. 

“This is a good budget for our system of 34 community and technical colleges and the nearly 400,000 students we serve,” said Brown.  “Thank you for the tuition freeze coupled with the institutional support to reflect inflation and other costs so our students and colleges can successfully plan for the future.”

Johnson applauded the House for fully funding collective bargaining agreements negotiated through the governor’s office. 

 “As you know, [faculty and staff] have not received an increase by the Legislature since 2008 or a COLA under I-732. Not only will this boost morale, but it will go a long way in helping us retain and recruit quality faculty and staff,” she said. 

Link to testimony  (starts at 3:00:07)

House approves proposed capital budget

April 2 — The House of Representatives approved its capital budget proposal and sent it to the Senate. Contained in EHB 1115, the plan:

·         Provides $272 million for community and technical college capital projects, which is 74 percent of the system’s request of $367.

·         Follows the system priority list but funds only the first 15 of 24 projects on the list, one less than the governor’s capital budget proposal.

Earlier in the week (March 30) A panel of community and technical college representatives  expressed concern that many projects only received partial funding and nine were left off the list altogether.

Denise Yochum, Pierce College Fort Steilacoom president, discussed the community and technical college system’s competitive process for selecting and ranking projects on the capital priority list. Each year, the system uses a predetermined set of criteria to classify and prioritize capital projects. That list is submitted to the Legislature as its capital budget request.

“The scoring process gives colleges a level playing field in which to compete for the state’s limited capital budget resources,” Yochum said. “This competition is tough and only the best proposals are added to the system’s request. While we appreciate the [House] following our prioritized list, we are concerned with the reduction in funding for projects that have already been designed, and we are concerned with the overall funding level which is proposed to be the lowest in recent history.”

The panel also stressed that new projects and building renovations were necessary for colleges to continue delivering high quality programs to meet student, employer and community demand.

 Linda Schoonmaker, Clover Park Technical College vice president for finance and administration, discussed funding to design the Center for Advanced Manufacturing Technologies.

 This project will allow us to continue providing relevant professional and technical education in a broad range of career fields to meet the needs of local students and businesses,” she said. “By consolidating our manufacturing programs into this new space, we will have a facility that allows us to serve more students as well as one that serves the high-dollar and state-of-the-art equipment across the programs.”

 Bruce Riveland, Olympic College vice president for administrative services,

pointed out that building projects serve not only an economic development purpose, but also a practical one. The college’s request for design funding to renovate a Shop Building — which houses welding, composites and precision machinery programs — would help meet local demand for aerospace training and also include an elevator or ADA access to programs on the building’s second floor.

 Steve Ward, Centralia College vice president for finance and administration, discussed a proposed $2.4 million cut in construction funding for a Student Services building.

 “Our students and community are already contributing $5 million to the project,” he said. Funding the construction phase as proposed will require us to raise more money or reduce the scope of work before it could be bid.”

·         Yochum starts at 15:52
·         Riveland starts at 17:57
·         Schoonmaker starts at 19:44
·         Ward starts at 21:21

Senate Ways and Means approves budget plan

 April 2 – The Senate Ways and Means Committee approved its version of the operating budget proposal. Contained in SB 5077, the plan:

·         Freezes tuition the first year and reduces it the second year by 2% starting at 16 credits. It fully offsets lost tuition revenue, but includes no institutional support for inflation.

·         Reduces the State Need Grant to reflect lower tuition.

·         Rejects collective bargaining agreements negotiated by the governor’s office (including Highline College and Yakima Valley Community College).  For employees covered by those agreements, the Senate proposes a $1,000 increase per employee for each of the next two years and is dependent upon agreement being reached by June 30. The $1,000 increase also applies to nonrepresented employees. I-732-covered employees are scheduled to receive COLAs anticipated to be 1.8% the first year and 1.3% the second year. The plan provides state funding for 85% of the above salary increases with the colleges providing the remaining balance from existing resources, a $3 million cost to the system. The remaining compensation items (health benefit contributions, pension contributions) are funded at 65% an additional cost of $3 to $4 million.

·         Includes an estimated $3.6 million “lean savings” cut in the back of the budget.

 Earlier in the week (March 31) Marty Brown, SBCTC executive director, testified on the measure before the Senate Ways & Means Committee. He thanked the committee for freezing tuition and backfilling the second year reduction, and for providing funding for I-732. However, he expressed concern about the rejection of negotiated collective bargaining agreements and the compensation-funding burden placed on colleges.

 Coming up later this week

 The Senate will resume floor action on its budget plan today. Policy bills that have survived thus far have until April 7 to pass fiscal committees.