Ron Taylor: Prop. 30 will help Merced College

September 20, 2012 

Voters will be faced with a bewildering array of choices when they cast ballots on Nov. 6.

In addition to choosing candidates, 11 propositions, each of them full of complexity, will confront us.

Despite this, we owe it to ourselves and our children to vote based on careful consideration of the issues.

Further complicating our task as voters is the competition between Proposition 30 and Proposition 38. While Proposition 38 would provide ongoing support for K-12 and preschool education, it taxes everyone's income and would provide nothing for community colleges. Furthermore, if it passes and achieves more votes than Proposition 30, Merced College would endure a massive mid-year "trigger cut."

In this context, Proposition 30 has great significance for Merced College and for public schools across the state, as well as for the California State University, University of California, and state government generally.

California continues to experience a gap between its needs and its revenue. The recession has exacerbated a long-term problem: California's tax revenues have failed to keep up with the state's needs. The Governor and others have proposed Proposition 30, which raises sales tax by quarter-cent per dollar purchased for four years and increases income tax for seven years on individuals earning $250,000 per year or more.

The 2012-2013 state budget is balanced on the assumption that Proposition 30 will pass. If it fails, automatic trigger cuts occur, and these cuts will affect K-12 education, community colleges, CSU, UC and public safety -- not to mention the state's overall solvency.

If Proposition 30 passes, Merced College will receive state support equivalent to what we received in 2011-2012. Community colleges with unfunded enrollment growth, like Merced College, will also receive a modest allocation of additional revenue in June 2013.

If Proposition 30 fails, Merced College will be forced to immediately eliminate $2.9 million in revenue for 2012-2013. Anticipating this reduction, we have already identified $1.4 million in savings. However, we will still have the unfortunate prospect of reducing an additional $1.5 million from our current budget. Failure of Proposition 30 will mean a lack of new state revenue for several years to come.

Some one-time solutions cannot be sustained over the long term, and worse, we will need to convert these one-time savings into actual reductions in service, effectively deepening the cut.

What will a cut of this magnitude mean to Merced College and our students? Ultimately, over the course of two or three years, the failure of Proposition 30 will likely force us to close some educational programs and shrink a large part of our direct student services. To cut another $1.5 million within the year will be a difficult burden to bear, especially for our students.

Unfortunately, one avenue we must consider is cancelling some classes for the spring 2013 semester. A preliminary estimate, assuming half of our remaining reductions will occur this way, would mean cancelling 260 class sections. For each class cancelled, the lives of 30 or more students are changed. It suddenly becomes that much more difficult for them to complete a degree or certificate, get training for a job, or earn transfer credits to a university.

Merced College has experienced serious budget cuts over the last three years. In 2009-2010, state support for student services was reduced by as much as 44 percent. To balance our budget, we had to eliminate 241 class sections. In 2011-2012, an additional 200 class sections were eliminated, making it very difficult for students to find the class they need.

In the current year all funding for equipment replacement and software upgrades has been eliminated. In addition, support budgets such as supplies, services, and staff training have been reduced by 15 percent.

These cuts have already affected the lives of hundreds of people in Merced County. Further trigger cuts will make life more difficult for those seeking to improve their lives and create a better future for their families. The cuts will also further damage the overall health of our economy.

Assuming Proposition 30 fails, Merced College will make the necessary reductions. We are currently identifying additional cost-saving ideas. As we do this, and as we identify classes for cancellation, we will prioritize carefully, guided by our mission and by criteria aimed at maintaining program quality and integrity.

Proposition 30 is not perfect, but it will provide a stop-gap that will prevent a serious downsizing of Merced College.

I encourage voters to research all the propositions carefully, and if you have questions about Proposition 30's impact on Merced College, I encourage you to contact me.

Dr. Ron Taylor is the president an superintendent of the Merced Community College District and can be reached by phone at (209) 384-6101, or e-mail ron.taylor@mccd.edu

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