Jul 22, 2015

With declining revenue, Northwest College is leaving some positions unfilled

This year’s budget for Northwest College shows a good-news, bad-news situation: The good news is that the bad news isn’t as bad as it could have been.

Once again, enrollment at Northwest College is predicted to decline for the coming school year. But the decline is less than originally predicted, and that’s good for the college’s bottom line.

Northwest College has instituted a kind of hiring freeze to combat declining revenue. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
Lisa Watson, the college's vice president for administrative services, told the NWC board of trustees at its July 13 budget hearing that the improved enrollment outlook will mean a revenue decline that is $144,000 less than earlier projections.

In addition, the college’s local tax revenue ended up being relatively flat compared to last year, declining by $2,213 instead of the $116,037 drop previously predicted. State revenue for the college dropped by $470,529 instead of an estimated $652,108.

In addition, the college received $449,855 through the recapture/redistribution process, which is designed to equalize funding between Wyoming’s seven community college districts. Northwest received the additional funding because Park County saw a drop in tax valuation last year, while other districts experienced smaller drops or increases in county tax valuations. Because that redistribution money is one-time funding, it will be spent on one-time projects and will not be used for salaries or other ongoing expenses, NWC President Stefani Hicswa told the board this spring.

Even with the redistribution dollars, the estimated total revenue for Northwest College for the 2015-16 fiscal year is $341,033 lower than last year’s budget.

To reduce expenses accordingly, only vacant faculty positions are being filled this year, Watson said. Other vacant positions are on hold pending a thorough analysis of the most efficient and economic ways to perform needed tasks, she said.

For example, Watson and Business Office Manager Jo Ann Heimer are working together to perform duties previously accomplished by former Finance Director Sheldon Flom.

 While the college is continuing to fill faculty positions, other vacant posts are being left open for now.

Other positions on hold are vice president for student affairs, formerly held by Sean Fox, and a scholarship aide.

Gerald Giraud, vice president for academic affairs, also will serve as interim vice president for student affairs.

“That’s how we covered that ... shortfall,” Watson said.

Watson, who assumed her position in February, said she plans to do a detailed study of the college’s accounts and expenses in order to make budgetary decisions more precisely in the future. In the past, money has been transferred occasionally from one account to another when needed, but that doesn’t paint an accurate picture of how funds are used, she said.

Watson warned board members that future budgetary decisions could get even tougher.

“The county and state in general are watching very closely the revenue trend as related to the oil and mineral revenue,” she said.

As of Monday, the price of oil had fallen again, to $50 per barrel, less than half the price it was a year ago.

Northwest College budget summary

Northwest College expects to receive $32.22 million in estimated revenue for the 2015-16 fiscal year, which began July 1.

Of that, $14.65 million, or 45.5 percent, is from state funding; $4.87 million, or 15.12 percent, from local taxes; $4.18 million from tuition and fees; $3.79 million from restricted sources; $4.66 million from the auxiliary fund and $63,000 from other sources.

Salaries and benefits make up the lion’s share of the college’s 2015-16 expenses, at $19.1 million, or 59.4 percent of the overall budget.

Second is operating expenses, budgeted at $11.86 million, or 36.8 percent of the budget.

Capital outlay expenses are budgeted at $842,416, and transfers at $384,851.

Broken down another way, $10.57 million will go toward instruction, $5.26 million toward instructional support, $3.48 toward scholarships, $2.79 million toward student services, $2.67 million for plant operations, $147,067 for public services and $68,151 for transfers.

Another $4.67 million is spent from the auxiliary fund, which covers revenue and expenses for student housing, meals and similar services.


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