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Clark Addresses Budget Shortfall of $5.4 million

Thursday at 11a.m. Clark officials made public the proposed budget cuts that could mean layoffs for many and warned that more cuts are likely to come. If the cuts are approved,  32 full-time college employees will lose their job by July 1.

The meeting was held online as per social distancing protocol. Interim President Sandra Fowler-Hill said there were 421 attendees. 

Interin president Sandra Fowler-Hill
Clark College interim President Sandra Fowler-Hill. Courtesy of Clark College

Bob Williamson, vice president of administrative services, said with the current $5.4 million budget shortfall, the college is facing a result of enrollment declining over the past six or seven years and operating costs going up every year, primarily salaries and benefits. Fowler-Hill and Williamson said 86% of the college budget is related to college personnel. 

Bob Williamson, vice president of administrative services, courtesy of Clark College

“It simply wasn’t possible to address the deficit without having to layoff employees across all employee classifications,” Williamson said, “It was just inevitable.”

Williamson showed slides that detailed the budget cuts. The job losses included the dean of STEM, the dean of student enrollment, full-time temporary and many other positions, both filled and vacant. In addition to eliminating jobs completely, some positions had a reduction in hours or were changed to self-supporting jobs.

The college also plans to make other moves to save money like closing the college every Friday throughout the summer and some additional weeks during breaks to save on utilities.

“We need to be prepared,” Williamson said.

“We are hearing loudly from Olympia that the economic impact of COVID-19 has cratered the state’s revenue,” said Williamson. “We’ve been told to anticipate cuts of somewhere between 10% to 17%. What you’re seeing today could simply be act one of budget reductions.”

Williamson said we will know more about future cuts later in the summer or early fall.

He said the college is looking into the government coronavirus aid package, The CARES Act, but it doesn’t provide the college with the opportunity to use new dollars to offset revenue loss. 

When Flower-Hill ended the meeting she acknowledged how difficult this conversation was, “This was not the year I expected, that’s for sure. I’ve got the faith and the trust that together Clark will survive and Clark will thrive and Clark will be here for the community and for students to be served,” Fowler-Hill said. “It’s a tough time for everybody as we’re doing this work and having to do this work using technology instead of what should be a face-to-face conversation.”

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