FREEPORT — Highland Community College Trustees approved the permanent fiscal year 2017 budget on Tuesday, September 27, during the regular meeting of the Board of Trustees.
The operating funds budget, which comprises instruction, student services, administration, and operations and maintenance of buildings and grounds includes $13.6 million in revenues and $13.8 million in expenses for fiscal year 2017 (FY17).
The new budget reflects a reduction in expenditures of approximately $700,000 from the previous year’s budget. College officials cited strategic cost reductions that took place in FY16 and in the FY17 budget building process for the decrease. The measures included a reduction in force and employee benefits; substantial savings in the College’s property and liability insurance; and targeted cuts identified by administrators and other budget managers.
“The College continues to face challenges in relation to our main operating revenue sources, which are projected to fall short of expenditures by about $272,000 next year,” said Jill Janssen, vice president of administrative services. “The College will utilize the fund balance, or reserves, in the operating funds to collect this shortfall. Fund balance levels are expected to be at 19 percent of expenditures, just below the level recommended by the Illinois Community College Board of at least 20 percent of expenditures.”
Janssen adds the main sources of revenue in the operating funds are student tuition and fees and local property taxes. Due to the State of Illinois’ budget challenges, state funding is no longer a main source of the College’s revenue, as it has been historically. In fact, state funding is expected to be only five percent of overall funding for FY17. This was also the case for FY16, as a result of the state budget impasse. For FY17, there has not been definite information about the College’s state funding due to the lack of a full state budget. It is estimated that, over the course of the most recent two fiscal years, Highland’s state funding will have decreased by about $2 million due to the state’s budget issues.
Highland’s enrollment levels have increased over last year, which has stabilized tuition and fee revenue. District-wide assessed valuation is estimated to increase slightly for the upcoming tax year resulting in about one-half percent more property tax revenue than received in the prior year. Overall, the College is budgeting a small increase in operating revenue from FY16 actual levels.
The majority of the operating budget comprises instruction and services that directly impact students. It is estimated that the College’s overall tax rate will be maintained at the current level. The state has paid the College for the unrestricted grants included in the stopgap budget which covers the first half of the fiscal year. This amounts to about 40 percent of the historical levels of state funding for Highland Community College. State funding for the remainder of the year has not been approved.
The FY17 budget also includes a Protection, Health, and Safety project that will allow for secure card access to campus buildings. This will replace the current traditional door locking system and will improve campus safety and security.