BCCC seeks more help from county commissioners

Published 7:41 pm Thursday, April 27, 2017

Beaufort County Community College is asking for an 11.3-percent funding increase from the Board of Commissioners for fiscal year 2017-18.

In FY 2016-17, BCCC was awarded more than $2.5 million in funding from the county commissioners. For this upcoming year, BCCC is requesting close to $2.8 million.

“I think it’s most easily stated in that it’s your job to handle the purse strings. It’s my job to protect my faculty, my staff, and my students and my facilities,” BCCC President Dr. Barbara Tansey said to the commissioners at a joint meeting Wednesday. “It does put us sometimes in an adversarial position.”

Mark Nelson, vice president of administrative services, presented BCCC’s budget request to the commissioners at the Wednesday meeting.

Although there were no major capital items on the budget request this year, two of the more costly requests included vehicle replacements and a doubled request regarding maintenance equipment.

Last year, the commissioners allotted $15,000 for maintenance equipment at BCCC, but the college is asking for $31,000 this year, $16,000 of which would go toward the purchase of a new maintenance utility vehicle.

The other requested vehicle replacements include: replacing a Dodge Caravan for a pick-up truck for maintenance, $12,000; replacing a Crown Victoria for campus police, $12,000; replacing another Dodge Caravan, $25,000; and replacing a Dodge Avenger, $25,000.

“You can look at them and tell we are putting money into a hole basically,” Nelson said. “We really have more money into it than the thing’s even worth, so we desperately need to surplus those cars.”

Yet another large chunk of money ($55,000), if awarded, would go toward replacing five air conditioning units in buildings 1, 2 and 8. Nelson said all of the units are around 25 years old — a couple of them are 27 years old — and the typical life expectancy on those units is 15-20 years.

“With Building 8, even though we haven’t spent a tremendous amount of money, that thing is dead in the water,” Nelson said. “It’d probably cost about half of what it would take to put a new one in there to get the thing up and running.”

At the Wednesday meeting, the commissioners did not have many questions, as they are in the midst of hearing from many groups and would need a closer look at the numbers.

County Manager Brian Alligood declined to comment in depth on the budget request, but said the county would know more after it meets with Beaufort County Schools next week.

“It is still early in the budget process for us, so I really don’t know yet. Based on the cut that the college took last year, the request is not out of line with what we expected,” Alligood said.

Tansey reminded the commissioners about the budget cuts BCCC has faced over the past couple of years. Most recently, the college announced it would have to cut another $1.1 million from its 2017-18 budget because of declining full-time enrollment numbers.

“The past month has been very painful for everybody on the left side of the room,” Tansey said, referring to the Board of Trustees. “It’s been tough, as you all know.”

In light of the budget problems, Tansey said she recently heard someone with the state board of community colleges mention the idea of merging colleges, which would likely mean the end of BCCC as residents know it.

According to the latest data, 95 percent of BCCC graduates are employed or moved to higher education within one year of graduation. BCCC also contributes about $99 million annually to the local economy through spending, payroll and alumni.

“You’re going to have to fight to keep the doors open and keep it alive,” Tansey said. “I think it would be horrible to lose your community college in this area.”

The new fiscal year begins July 1, and the county commissioners plan to present the county budget at a special called meeting May 15.