A heartfelt plea to save Owens Community College's Child Care Center from closure was heard with sympathy, but it made little difference as the college looks at ways to cut $7.5 million by the end of fiscal year 2014.
At Tuesday's board of trustees meeting, it was announced that decreases in student enrollment combined with increases in operating expenses will require that cost-savings measures be implemented. The list includes leaving vacant positions unfilled and reducing part-time hours; increasing employee contributions for health benefits; reducing travel and professional development expenses; reducing purchases for materials, supplies and equipment; delaying campus maintenance and technology replacements; renegotiating utility and out-sourced service contracts; implementing energy conservation measures; and increasing class sizes.
A reduction in workforce also is planned, with approximately 30 administrative staff members' contracts not renewed as of June 30 of this year. They will be eligible to apply to open positions within the college.
An additional 30 administrative staff members will likely be reassigned or have their contracts modified.
The college will continue to see savings from the elimination of vacant positions, retirement and attrition. These efforts already have reduced 127 positions since 2011.
At Tuesday's meeting, trustees accepted resignations from Michael Cornell, director of the Center for Emergency Preparedness, effective April 19; Cynthia Spiers, associate vice provost of Student Affairs, effective April 12; Willie Williams, director of The Learning Center at The Source, effective April 3; Vickie Adams, director of Veterans Services, effective April 1; and Michael Bankey, associate vice president of Workforce and Community Services, effective May 3.
Most of those positions will not be replaced, said Renay Scott, college provost.
Much of the problem in the college's revenue stream is the continued drop in enrollment.
This year, enrollment of full-time tuition-paying students was estimated at 11,500, which provided the basis of this year's approved budget. But actual enrollment is approximately 8,700.
Enrollment has been dropping for three years, according to Brad Meyer, public relations coordinator.
Enrollment for 2011 was 11,157; for 2012, it was 9,535; and for this year, 8,727.
Increasing tuition charged to students has not helped offset increasing operating costs.
Tuition in fall 2011 was $131 per credit hour. That increased to $136 in fall 2012, and to $146 for fall 2013.
The operating budget for this year have been projected at $99.86 million.
Last year it was $118.72 million, and in 2011 was $127.99 million.
Internal cost-cutting measures, such as reducing operating expenses, have achieved nearly $6.86 million in cost reductions in the past nine months.
The college has approximately 2,100 employees including full-time and part-time faculty and staff.
Closing the Child Care Center will save the college $340,000 annually, said Scott.
She said that amount is what the center is costing over revenue.
Erin Holleran, a preschool teacher at the center, and Emily Wilcheck, a parent with two children enrolled, pleaded with the board to not close the center June 30, as was announced in early March.
Holleran said the high level of education of teachers at the center far exceeds the level of teachers "at other centers in our area."
The school has enrolled 94 children this year, providing care for ages six weeks to six months during the school year, and for school-aged children up to age eight during the summer.
The fee charged for students has increased in at least five of the seven years she's been with the college, Scott said, and it's easily the most expensive child care center in the area.
Scott said students who use the center as a learning lab can utilize other locations, thus not impacting the college's accreditation for that academic program.
Holleran had a petition signed by 700 community members to keep the center open, and proposed a number of steps that could be taken to cut costs, including decreasing the number of student helpers, decreasing the art position, decreasing clerks' time, and decreasing teaching planning time. The savings would be $200,000 a year, she estimated.
Scott pointed out that those savings would still leave the program $140,000 in the red.
"We're getting proposals at the 11th hour," said trustees Chairman Rich Rowe. He said it's not the board's decision to make on the center's future, but the administration's decision.