The board met in special session Wednesday evening last week.
CBC President Dr. Beatriz Espinoza proposed a rollback tax rate of $.17738 per $100 property valuation, which would garner the college almost $2.9 million — an additional $400,000.
The proposed budget, however, presented at a workshop Aug. 4, was based on last year’s tax rate of $.17388.
The proposed rate is just below the state limit that would require public hearings and an election.
“I’m proposing we don’t go back to the taxpayers,” Dr. Espinoza said, then told the trustees one of the main reasons for asking for the higher rate was to raise salaries.
“It’s the first raises they would have received in three years,” she said.
Under her plan, employees making up to $25,000 a year would get a 5 percent raise; those making $25,000 to $50,000 would see a 3 percent raise; and those making more than $50,000 would receive a 2 percent raise.
Total raises would be around $225,000.
“Does that include you?” Trustee Laura Fischer asked Espinoza.
“In the category,” she replied.
One-half of the tax-rate revenue would be dedicated to increasing the facility’s debt service reserves.
The increase would mean a homeowner with a $100,000 home would annually pay an additional $15.75.
The board then proposed a fiscal 2015 budget of $23,632,775 based on a 100 percent tax return — although the expected return is 95 percent.
The proposed budget is broken down into:
•State funding — $6.3 million
•Operating grants — $3.4 million
•Tuition — $7.4 million
Tuition rates should remain constant throughout the year, based on an estimated enrollment of 3,500.
The estimated revenues of $23.6 million against estimated expenses of $22.6 million (with $1 million placed in reserve) prompted Fischer to praise Espinoza not only for presenting a balanced budget — a task Fischer thought improbable — but for placing $1.45 million into the depleted debt service reserve.
“You missed the goal by three-and-one-third percent,” she chided. “But I didn’t think you would get 50 percent! I am just blown away.”
The college president quietly patted herself on the back. “I’m happy to exceed your expectations,” she replied.
“Our fund balance was completely depleted,” she said. “We, as a board, set a goal to replace our fund balance in two fiscal years to the tune of $1.5 million each year....My thoughts were that was a real stretch.”
Making CBC financially viable — an absolute requirement if the college was to receive its re-accreditation from Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SACS) — resulted in more than a year of stringent belt tightening and staff reductions with echoes that continue to reverberate.
Those adjustments, Fischer noted, caused “a lot of pain and agony on everyone’s part, but were necessary.”
She added, “We need to show our gratitude to Dr. Espinoza and her staff for setting us on the path of solvency, for without solvency, we do not have a college....I’m really still in disbelief that she actually accomplished it.”
Public hearings on the budget and tax rate are at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 25 and Sept. 3; the final vote to adopt a tax rate and budget is Sept. 17.
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.