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NCCC faces a budget shortfall

April 13, 2018
By GLYNIS HART - For the News ( , Lake Placid News

SARANAC LAKE - North Country Community College's draft budget for the coming year, presented two weeks ago to its board of directors, predicts a shortfall of $150,000.

Robert Farmer, NCCC's chief financial officer, said the number was helped by state budget news.

"At the time of the board meeting we were looking at a deficit of $200,000, which has since been reduced to $150,000 with the increase to our state aid rate in the New York state budget," said Farmer. Normally the state increases aid by about $50 per student, but this year that number was doubled to $100 per full-time-equivalent student.

Farmer said much of the shortfall can be explained by not knowing the numbers for the prison education program. NCCC provides teachers in the state prison system, mostly helping inmates obtain General Equivalency Diplomas through its Second Chance Pell program.

"NCCC receives federal Pell funds for the prison program," said Farmer. "The [20]18-19 budget includes Second Chance revenue and expense for the fall of '18 and spring '19 semesters but does not include anything for the summer of '19."

Farmer cautioned that the college budget is still only preliminary and that there will be further discussions with administrators to find ways to increase revenues or cut costs.

"This is a pretty skinny budget," said Farmer. "There's no real fluff in this budget at all."

The college's total revenues declined from $14,475,371 in the 2017-18 budget to $12,672,595 for the 2018-19 school year. Expenditures were also reduced, from $14,518,251 to a predicted $13,418,828 for 2018-19.

Salary and benefits comprise 75 to 80 percent of the college's budget, with contractual pay raises of "around 2.5 percent" and a health insurance cost increase between 8 and 9 percent.

"Those are the two biggest cost drivers," said Farmer.

On the revenue side, tuition and fees contribute a little over $5 million a year. Essex and Franklin counties contribute almost $3 million. The Second Chance Pell program brings in $650,000, and the college's new Pathway to Potsdam program about $1.4 million. Out-of-state tuition and state aid - around $600,000 and $3.6 million, respectively - bring in most of the rest of the college's income.

Capital funds are dedicated to upkeep, repair and renovation at the campus. The state will contribute "roughly $320,000" this year, said Farmer.

"We've got to sort through all our capital projects and see what we can do. Classroom improvements are always what we do with that money," he said. The college is currently in the process of replacing all the desks and chairs in the classrooms with new ones.

Farmer said the Second Chance Pell program produced a net gain of $400,000 for the college.

"Without the Second Chance program we'd have a $630,000 deficit," he said.

The Second Chance Pell program is a two-year pilot program instated by the Obama administration and must be renewed every year. Although funding was renewed last year, federal Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has indicated that her department is not interested in being involved in criminal justice reform.

The program temporarily revived a provision in the Higher Education Act of 1965, allocating funds to 69 colleges and universities to provide classes to prisoners. That ended in 1994, when President Bill Clinton's Crime Bill amended the Higher Education Act.

Ten years later, data from prison education programs collected by the Rand Corporation indicated that individuals who participated in these programs were 43 percent less likely to return to prison, thus returning $4 to $5 to taxpayers for every $1 spent on prison education.

The program is under review by a Senate committee headed by Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, who has said he is open to re-examining the Pell program benefits, but a Democratic bill to renew the program in the House of Representatives has not found a Republican sponsor.



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