Maddie Chalk / Editor in Chief
After the 82nd Legislative Session in January, community colleges across Texas were faced with a range of figures for estimated budget cuts for the upcoming year and Del Mar College had projected fund losses of between $4.5 and $9 million.
Every department and program was reviewed, reorganized and redrawn to maximize efficiency, according to administrators. This resulted in the loss of 46 jobs that were eliminated in the reorganization.
“The first issuance of House Bill 1 said you’re going to lose multiple million dollars at the college,” DMC President Mark Escamilla said. “We had to react and we knew we could not bring everybody back. We knew the day that House Bill 1 hit that our lives would change here at the college but we were not expecting it to be that bad.”
During the spring semester, an early retirement program was offered to DMC employees and 44 employees volunteered for this program, saving the college an estimated $1.3 million.
“We thought through an early retirement program, tweaking tuition costs and some retirement savings that we could get through this, but it wasn’t near enough,” Escamilla said. “We ended up taking about a $4.5 million cut from the state.”
Because the college has become accustomed to the state funds it is allotted annually, losing funding is nearly devastating. The changes that needed to be made to save the $4.5 million that the state is no longer providing are significant.
“To spend a million dollars, it’s a piece of cake and you can do it in 10 minutes,” Escamilla said. “But to save a million dollars is much more difficult.”
Community college officials and students traveled to Austin during the spring semester to explain to the legislative officials the importance of having these funds for the college.
“We went to Austin many times and I got to testify; it was like no other session that the state has ever experienced,” Escamilla said. “Tensions were high because legislators and elected people knew that lives were going to be negatively impacted by [actions in] the 82nd Legislature.”
Along with the volunteer retirement program and the reorganization of jobs, DMC officials also implemented a 9 percent tuition increase.
“Every penny counts and for me,” Escamilla said. “To have to raise student fees and charges two years in a row is very difficult.”
As a result of the decision to outsource the custodial and groundskeeping services, the college continued to make financial cutbacks.
“About $750,000 was saved by way of our decision to outsource our custodial and groundskeepers,” Escamilla said. “That was another very difficult decision because I’ve resisted that decision ever since I got here, but ultimately it boils down to saving $750,000.”