January 28, 2009 in Idaho

NIC crimped by state budget crunch

By The Spokesman-Review
Betsy Russell photo

John Martin, vice president for community relations at North Idaho College, tells legislative budget writers the college recognizes the tough economic climate and its impact on NIC’s state funding.
(Full-size photo)

Eye on Boise
Read Idaho legislature news and more at Betsy Russell’s blog, Eye on Boise.

North Idaho College, which had its budget hearing before JFAC this morning, had been hoping for $605,100 next year to start up a much-needed dental hygienist program in partnership with a local free clinic, and $334,500 for the first year of a two-year campus technology upgrade to get its classrooms up to minimum technology standards.

But Gov. Butch Otter didn’t recommend funding for either item in his proposed budget for next year.

John Martin, vice president for community relations, told legislative budget writers, “In a normal year, we would come down here with a fancy brochure telling you” all the things NIC needs. But not this year, he said. “We are not going to insult this committee by telling you you have to do things you can’t do. We don’t have a list of must-haves.”

Instead, he said the college pledges to do the best it can with what it has.

Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, asked him, “Does NIC have a Plan B on how to finance those critical programs?”

Martin said the college is looking into grants and donors.

A former member of Sen. Larry Craig’s staff who recently was appointed to his position at NIC, Martin said, “We’re also going to wade into the waters of federal appropriations once again, to see if that can be done.”

Martin was filling in for college President Priscilla Bell, who is recovering from surgery.

Overall, NIC receives about $11.5 million a year in state general funds, but the college also has two other major funding sources: $11.7 million from local property taxes and $9 million from tuition and fees.

The other funding sources moderated the impact of state budget cuts, Martin said. The 4 percent holdback was, in total, about a 1.28 percent in NIC’s academic instructional programs, he said.

Next year’s proposed 7 percent budget cut will equal out to a total reduction of 2.25 percent of the college’s total funds. Nevertheless, he said, the college is in the midst of trimming costs and conducting a zero-based budgeting process.

“Capital equipment purchases or maintenance projects are going to be delayed or canceled,” he told lawmakers. “Reductions in personnel costs are probably going to be necessary.” Already, the college has eliminated two full-time positions that were vacant, and 14 part-time positions, he said.

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