State budget deal may avert City Colleges layoffs

  • By Peter Sachs
  • Staff Writer
  • July 16, 2009 @ 12:00 PM

It appears the City Colleges of Chicago will not have to make deep cuts to save some programs, thanks to a stopgap budget approved by the state legislature last night.

The state budget largely preserves funding for many education programs across the state, doing so with heavy borrowing and few of the cuts that had loomed for weeks. But the legislature will have to revisit its budget by January, meaning that the City Colleges may not be completely free from the threat of cuts.

The City Colleges gets about 20 percent of its funds from the state, including a combined $30 million for adult education, technical programs and student financial aid.

The budget signed last night by Gov. Pat Quinn provides the City Colleges with funding until January thanks to state borrowing. What happens then is unclear.

In a worst-case scenario, if the district lost all that money this year, it would have to lay off 140 people to make up part of the gap, Finance Director Ken Gotsch said.

The layoffs and other cuts to things like travel spending and rainy day funds would come from other parts of the district so that it could keep offering things like adult education, Gotsch said.

“We can’t cut those programs,” he said. “Those are important programs to our district.”

The district’s $492 million budget for the new fiscal year is slightly larger than last year’s, though that number assumes that the state won’t go through with the $30 million in cuts.

Gotsch said the district hadn’t told its employees who might get laid off, because it didn’t want to upset workers, especially if the layoffs turned out to be unnecessary.

But more cuts are likely in the next few years, regardless of how the state budget turns out, Gotsch says.

That’s because the district projects it will have a $4.2 million budget shortfall next year and a $12.7 million gap in three years.

Gotsch said the district is looking for ways large and small to save money.

Last year it got back $474,000 it overpaid in sales taxes on its phone bills. Because the district is a government body, it is tax-exempt, but the taxes were appearing on its bills and it had paid them anyway, Gotsch says.

He said the district is even looking into whether it can make any money from reselling wooden shipping pallets after it gets deliveries.

“You know we’re kind of scraping the barrel and we’re starting to pick up the loose change on the ground,” Gotsch says.

 

Daily News Staff Writer Peter Sachs covers higher education. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 18, or peter [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.

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