NCCC presents $14.4M budget

MALONE — North Country Community College unveiled a $14.4 million budget for the 2020-21 academic year on Thursday, a decrease in planned spending of about 4% from the 2019-20 year.

The decrease is in part the result of a drop in the number of students expected to attend the college in the fall and in part in recognition of the uncertain status of state support, NCCC President Joe Keegan told members of the Franklin County Legislature on Thursday.

The number of full-time equivalent students projected for the fall is 1,050, or about 1% less than in fall 2019, Erik Harvey, the college’s interim chief financial officer, said during the budget presentation. That number includes an anticipated 165 students in the Second Chance Pell program, a program that allows state prison inmates to earn their college degree.

The dip in enrollment translates to reduced revenues of about $100,000 –– primarily the result of decreases in anticipated out-of-state tuition and college and course fees, Harvey said.

College officials in June had said applications were running 1% to 2% ahead of last year, but the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on out-of-state and international students, as well as the cancellation of fall athletics that prompted some student-athletes to bypass the fall semester resulted in the expected enrollment decline.

The college is also anticipating a $73,000 reduction in state aid –– a number that could grow by as much as 20% as the state struggles with its own revenue losses due to the pandemic, Keegan noted.

Even with the reduced spending, the college will draw about $31,000 from its unrestricted fund balance to balance the budget, a sharp drop from the $475,000 drawn from the fund balance in the 2019-20 budget, Harvey said. That move leaves the college with a fund balance of about $4.1 million, he said.

When the budget process first began, the college had projected a deficit of $1.45 million, but a number of initiatives –– including cutting all discretionary spending; freezing travel, professional development, information technology upgrades, administrative salaries and staff overtime; and leaving several administrative vacancies unfilled, helped bring the budget in line, he said.

“Regretfully, there will be institution-wide staffing reorganizations and cuts to the casual labor pools that support instruction,” Harvey added.

Salaries and benefits account for about 73% of the total college budget, Harvey said. The budget submitted Thursday calls for a $413,000 decrease in spending on salaries, with another $136,000 drop in spending on benefits.

If NCCC ends up providing most instruction on-line for the entire school year, it could recognize additional salary and benefit savings of about $150,000 with an additional $85,000 in savings on utility and travel costs, he added.

The combined spending reductions and revenue losses will produce a balanced budget, Harvey noted.

“We’re coming in neutral at this point,” he said.

The college is not asking its two sponsoring counties –– Franklin County and Essex County –– to increase their financial support this year. Each county contributed $1.19 million for operating costs and an additional $50,000 to help pay for capital projects last year; those numbers will not change in the 2020-21 year, Harvey said.

The capital funding will be used solely for “critical maintenance,” Harvey said.

Franklin County has scheduled a public hearing on the college’s budget for 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 13. Essex County has not yet scheduled its hearing; college officials are scheduled to meet with the Board of Supervisors on Monday.

The counties usually hold their hearings and votes on the college’s budget in late June or early July. The dates were pushed back this year because of the complications caused by the pandemic.

Keegan said he was grateful to the counties for the extra time because it gave the college time “to try to think through all these uncertainties.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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