A special message from Dr. Sandy Shugart, Valencia College President
I’m afraid I am a bit overdue in writing this update and hope you will forgive its length.
The Florida Legislature completed its budget work earlier than normal this year, a function of their decennial redistricting activity. While the state’s economy is slowly recovering, the budget has little to show for it, as Medicaid and other structural costs are outgrowing revenue collections.
The big news you probably read was a $987 million increase in state funding to the public schools and a $300 million cut to the state universities. Our Florida College System just about broke even and the legislature authorized another five percent tuition increase. However, the governor continues to communicate his reluctance to see tuition increase any further and many trustees, especially his appointees, agree.
Because of the ongoing serious inequity in state funding, Valencia sought a special allocation to add to our base budget of some $7 million. The House leadership included it in their budget, but the Senate did not, making it an issue to negotiate between them in what’s known as the “budget conference” at the end of the session. In the end, only $1 million of this special allocation made it into Valencia’s recurring base budget, but another $6 million in non-recurring (capital) funds were also authorized, allowing us to do several small projects around the college.
The college also received the final funds to complete the projects we have underway, most notably Osceola Building 4, and the funding was not vetoed this year as it was last year.
Aside from the budget, one very important substantive matter was passed, with little opportunity for discussion, making major statewide changes to the required general education curriculum in public colleges and universities effective in the 2013 academic year. Across the state these changes are still under serious discussion and our own faculty and deans need to be engaged in sorting this out.
The college budget is still in development, but as many of you know, it is a challenging year for several reasons. First, the college built the current year budget based on a 4.5 percent enrollment increase and we are actually experiencing a 1.5 percent reduction this year. This is the national pattern and is closely connected to the economic recovery and federal financial aid policy changes. Still, this leaves the college with a $5.3 million deficit to cover in the coming year’s budget. And it isn’t likely that enrollment will return to a strong growth pattern in the coming year.
Second, the college (happily) is opening three new buildings in the coming year – Lake Nona in the fall, Osceola Building 4 in January, and the much smaller Building 10 on West also in January. With this much needed space, however, comes more than $3 million in new costs just to cool, clean, light, landscape, etc.
With these challenges to surmount, and with our principles still clear – everyone counts, transparency, our best work must continue, and protect the student experience – we’ve been working throughout the college to build a balanced budget. There is some pain in this, but it has essentially been accomplished with reductions in adjunct sections, reduced supplies, materials, travel, part-time staffing, and little or no contingency. What remains to be seen (at the May board meeting) is the board’s willingness to raise tuition, even a small amount. We will present options for them to consider.
I am sorry to say, for the first time in my tenure at Valencia, that there isn’t any scenario for this year that is likely to allow us to provide an increase in salary. But neither are there the kinds of cuts and staffing reductions other publicly funded organizations have been seeing for the past few years. The budget won’t be finalized until the June board meeting; all I can say is that we will do the very best we can for you and for the students.
I’ve already mentioned the three projects underway at the college. All are progressing well and should be ready on time and on budget. In addition, you may have read that the Foundation is buying a new building to house the district offices. While the deal isn’t complete, it is the building nearest the corner of Metrowest Boulevard and Hiawassee Road (behind the West Campus), and will double the space available at no increase in the lease costs and contribute some savings on other costs. The new space is essentially “free” and it will allow us to pull together various administrative offices that are currently scattered across campuses, both reducing some in-district travel and freeing up some 30,000 square feet of instructional and support space on the campuses. If all goes well, the move should occur next spring.
I am very pleased to announce that the search for president of the East and Winter Park Campuses has been successfully completed. Dr. Stacey Johnson will join us in this role near the beginning of August. Dr. Johnson comes to us having served as a faculty member, dean, and most recently vice president for academic affairs at Palo Alto College in the Alamo Community College District in San Antonio, Texas. She has great vision and energy and was described by her references as “passionate, creative, a listener, trusting, collaborative, a community builder, a healer, brilliant, committed, and fun.”
The search for a district vice president for academic affairs is still underway, with Dr. Susan Ledlow, a finalist for the position, making a second visit to Valencia this week. Dr. Ledlow is a very talented leader, with deep expertise in teaching and learning that has often been called on in our own faculty development programs. We hope to reach a conclusion with her on whether Valencia and she are the right match after a few days of reflection on this visit. More later…
Thanks to all who played a role in Saturday’s commencement exercises, our largest in history with something around 1,200 graduates. I could see, feel, and hear the enormous pride our graduates feel in Valencia. It is such a wonderful reminder of the genuine value of all that you do.