Owens may try for levy support
Written by MARIE THOMAS BAIRD, Sentinel Education Editor
Tuesday, 03 June 2014 09:03
PERRYSBURG - It's taken more than a decade, but Owens Community College again is considering going to taxpayers to ask for funding support.
Dr. Mike Bower put together a committee to determine the best way to raise revenue while keeping tuition down.
Burges & Burges Strategists of Cleveland has been hired to help the college consider its options, including changing its charter to make it possible to put a levy on the ballot.
Any ballot would only appear in Owens' service areas: Lucas, Wood, Sandusky, Hancock and Ottawa counties. A simple majority - 50 percent plus one - of voters within the district would be necessary to pass a tax.
But Owens would have to change to a community college from its current status as a state community college. Such a move would take a petition approved by the Ohio Board of Regents.
The change in status would not impact the level of state funding the college receives, according to Bower.
The biggest change would be how trustees are appointed to the board. Under a community college, trustees are appointed by the commissioners of the counties served by the college, and by the governor.
Currently, all eight board members are appointed by the governor.
With a decline in enrollment and an equal drop in state aid, the college has been struggling in recent years to maintain a balanced budget.
State aid in fiscal year 2010 was $43,266,082; that has dropped to $34,369,190 this year, or 14 percent.
To save money, since Spring 2013 the college has closed its Child Care Center; has left vacant positions unfilled and reduced part-time hours; increased employee contributions for health benefits; reduced travel and professional development expenses; reduced purchases for materials, supplies and equipment; delayed campus maintenance and technology replacements; renegotiated utility and out-sourced service contracts; implemented energy conservation measures; and increased class sizes.
Approximately 30 administrative staff members' contracts were not renewed last June. An additional 30 administrative staff members were reassigned or had their contracts modified.
At least 127 positions have been eliminated since 2011, either through retirements, attrition or simply left vacant.
Much of the problem in the college's revenue stream is the continued drop in enrollment.
In 2013, enrollment was approximately 14,670. In 2010, that number was 19,980, according to figures previously reported by the college.
Income from enrollment was not available by presstime.
Enrollment is down across the country, not just in Ohio, Bower said.
Meanwhile the cost to take classes at Owens has increased, from $127.30 per credit hour in Fall 2010 to $149.60 in Fall 2014, according to the college.
The goal is to attract more students to the college, and keeping tuition low in order to do that.
"If you have a levy you can keep tuition relatively low for people in your service district," said Rich Rowe, chairman of Owens' board of trustees.
"We kind of cut all the costs we can."
The college considered a levy in 2001 and 2004, but decided against it, according to Bower.
The consultants have been tasked with developing a better way to recruit students and a better way to retain them, Rowe said.
The contract with the agency expires at the end of this month, and Bower hopes to have a recommendation by then.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 June 2014 13:51