The next chapter in the history of State Fair Community College began Thursday as two new trustees, Richard Parker and Justin Hubbs, participated in their first board meeting after taking their oath of office June 11.

Parker and Hubbs joined the Board of Trustees for an hour-long work session to discuss the college's budget for the 2021 fiscal year. Trustees faced the task of approving a balanced budget for the college in light of recent funding cuts from the state as well as declining enrollment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In June 2019, trustees approved operating revenues of $31,343,484 and operating expenses of $30,847,118 as part of the 2020 budget. For the 2021 budget, operating revenues of $28,892,955 and operating expenses of $28,693,557 were approved Thursday.

Trustees approved a total operating budget of $50,001,640 as presented for fiscal year 2021. Trustee Jim Page voted no. 

“On June 1, the Governor announced an additional withhold of $297,611 from State Fair Community College,” Vice President for Finance Keith Acuff explained to the Democrat via email prior to the meeting. “This was in addition to the $501,345 withhold announced on April 1. Together the total withhold from the State of Missouri totals $798,956 and represents 13.3% of our state core support and 13.3% of the state maintenance and repair fund allocated to SFCC.”

Acuff noted these withholds occurred during the last quarter of the fiscal year and represent a 53% withhold of budgeted funds in this quarter.

In response to the loss of revenue, the administration presented the following cuts to the trustees for consideration before voting to approve the 2021 budget:

• Travel: All travel and related costs not necessary for program accreditation have been put on hold for FY21. Athletic travel will continue with a renewed emphasis on conservation of college funds. Booster Club and other fundraising efforts will be intensified to offset athletic expenses.

• Reduction of discretionary spending: Memberships, sponsorships, and subscriptions have been reduced. College consumables are being restricted. Supplies not directly related to instruction are being minimized. Those expenses not critical to student success and SFCC’s mission are being eliminated for this year.

• Reduction in outsourced services: The college is actively eliminating (where possible) or renegotiating contracts with outside suppliers for FY21.

• Discontinuation of selective ancillary compensation: Several legacy incremental compensation programs are being eliminated. According to Acuff, this will provide a common compensation method for all employees. This includes the elimination of mobile phone stipends and differential pay. Payroll savings also includes a voluntary 6% reduction in the president’s compensation for FY21.

• Hiring freeze and voluntary retirement: Only essential open positions will be filled. Currently, one open faculty position and four open staff positions are no longer being recruited. A voluntary retirement incentive has been offered to eligible employees; two individuals have applied. Eligible employees have until July 20 to apply. 

• Position reductions: The college has eliminated, or shifted from full-time to part-time, nine staff positions. Some employees, including some members of the Executive Leadership Team, will be placed on one or two week furloughs.

“We anticipate similar budget reductions for FY2021 and have finalized our budget with this reality and the reality of decreased enrollment due to COVID-19,” Acuff stated. “Our budget is based on a 20% reduction in state revenue and a 15% decrease in enrollment.

“The leadership team has meticulously scrutinized each line in the budget seeking cost-savings to allow us to get to this point,” he continued. “We have been committed to presenting the board with a balanced budget from the very beginning.” 

On June 19, SFCC President Dr. Joanna Anderson spoke at the Pettis County Pachyderm meeting. At that time, Anderson told the audience enrollment was down by almost 17% for the fall semester. It is currently down 14.2% for the fall.  

“I think there is a reluctance to enroll by students (because of the pandemic),” Anderson said. “There is a lot of conversation about students taking a gap year. Life issues are keeping them away.”

Anderson remained optimistic during the Pachyderm meeting, telling those present the administration remains truly dedicated to the students, faculty and staff at SFCC. It is a statement she echoed Thursday.  

“We must continue to adapt and remain supportive of each other through these difficult times,” Anderson said in a statement provided to the Democrat. “I appreciate the sacrifices everyone is making and remember that we must remain committed to fiscal responsibility. We are all agents of the taxpayers and must do our parts to ensure the continued success of this great community college.”   

“I truly believe that the solution to the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic lies within community colleges everywhere,” Anderson continued. “We have the ability to be responsive to workforce challenges and provide the credentials needed by employers in a relatively quick manner. SFCC has exceptional programs and services to help those who have lost jobs or are considering a career change.”

In other actions trustees:   

• Accepted the commercial premium proposal from Insurance & Benefits Group for a total of $368,635 for FY21. The renewal proposal reflects a 3.77% increase from 2020.

• Approved payment of bills in the amount of $3,454,985 for May.

• Entered into closed session for the purpose of personnel discussions.

The next regular meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. July 23 in the Thompson Conference Center.

Education Reporter

Hope Lecchi is the education reporter for the Democrat, covering all things education in Sedalia and Pettis County, as well as providing general assignment and feature coverage. She can be reached at 660-530-0144.

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