Community colleges fight for piece of funding pie

SALEM, Ore. (AP) – All 17 of Oregon’s community colleges agree on one thing: There’s not enough money allocated to them in Governor Ted Kulongoski’s proposed budget for 2005-2007.

But with chances dimming for more money overall, the community colleges are left to scrap amongst themselves for their pieces of the pie.

Kulongoski’s blueprint calls for a $394 million community college budget, down from $416 million in the two-year cycle that ends June 30.

"Where we currently stand, no matter how you look at it, it will cause a reduction in service statewide," Cam Preus-Braly, the state’s commissioner of community colleges, said Thursday.

So the question now is who gets what of what is left.

"It’s a struggle to balance individual college needs with statewide needs," said Central Oregon Community College President Jim Middleton. "It is well intentioned on everyone’s part to work for whole, and also keep an eye on the local impacts."

Some schools say all community college resources ought to be included in the funding formula, including locally generated property taxes. That would mean that districts get less state money if they collect more in property taxes.

A previous formula took into account half of the dollars raised in local taxes.

The state per-student community college funding average is $3,207; Portland Community College gets the least at $2,986 per student, while students at Central Oregon are funded at $4,081 per student.

Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, who sits on the school funding subcommittee, said he expects to see more dollars sent to community colleges.

But lawmakers won’t decide how much until after the March revenue forecast tells them how much tax money to expect in the next two years.

Pete Nevin, board president for Klamath Community College, said small rural schools are not going to sign up for a plan that diverts more dollars from small, cash-strapped schools to Portland, which has a large number of full-time equivalent students and gets the most money overall.

"When it’s based on the FTE, the big boys are going to win and the rurals are going to lose," he said.