Proposition 30 received the unanimous backing of the Southwestern College Governing Board and Academic Senate, joining a chorus of California educators supporting the temporary tax hike that will support beleaguered community colleges.
SWC has seen its budget fall by nearly $14 million in recent years and has lost more than half its class sections. It balanced the budget this year only after negotiating a 5 percent pay cut for all employees and withdrawing $1.7 million from its reserves – the maximum allowed.
Failure of Proposition 30 to pass November 6 would mean a mid-year cut of $4.8 million for SWC, according to figures provided by the California Community College Chancellor’s office.
Bruce MacNintch, president of the SWC classified employees union, said passage of Proposition 30 is essential.
“The college has never gone through this before so we’re in new territory,” he said. “If the $4.8 million disappears, something has to be done because we do not have the money to get through the rest of the year.”
A resolution by the governing board in support of Proposition 30 spelled out the steps the college had taken to reduce overhead and consequences of further cuts.
“To balance the budget, the board drew from its reserves and gathered savings through a five percent pay reduction for all employees, including themselves, reduced the purchase of supplies and reduced part-time faculty hours,” according to the resolution. “The college has realized a reduction of over 550 sections from last year.”
Mid-year cuts would be “very difficult,” said SWC Board President Norma Hernandez.
SWC is already operating on a “bare-bones budget,” she said.
Proposition 30 would temporarily increase personal income tax 1 to 3 percent for seven years for those making more than $250,000.
Sales tax would increase by one-fourth of a percent for four years.
Gov. Jerry Brown said Proposition 30 puts the future of community colleges in the hands of voters.
“We had it easy and now the moment of truth is upon us,” he said. “We’ve got to pay for what we want.”
Even if Proposition 30 wins it might lose. Proposition 38, a competing measure, would negate much of Proposition 30 if it gets more votes.
“Proposition 38 contains a section indicating that its provisions would prevail and the tax rate provisions of any other measure affecting sales or income tax rates – in this case Proposition 30 – would not go into effect,” reads the ballot summary. “Under this scenario, the spending reductions known as the trigger cuts would take effect.”
MacNintch said the voters need to know “there is no more fat to cut.”
“It’s like having $10 in the bank and $11 in expenses that you know you have to pay,” he said. “What do you do? And you’ve already quit going to Starbucks and you’ve done all the things that you can do to reduce your spending that were not painful. Now there’s nothing but painful choices left.”
Board member Humberto Peraza said higher education is essential if California is to pull out of its financial funk and regain its place as America’s leader in innovation.
“We’re about to eat the goose that lays the golden eggs, when instead we should be feeding her better to get productivity up,” he said. “Higher education drives California’s economy. Healthy colleges equals a healthier state.”