CCSF finances said to be unsustainable

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerPat Wille

City College of San Francisco’s finances are in peril, and in order to maintain fiscal solvency the college must make a number of changes to employee contracts and the way the budget is planned, among dozens of other recommendations.

According to a report released Tuesday by the Financial Crisis Management and Assistance Team, there are numerous flaws in the way CCSF handles its finances, including a cost structure that cannot be sustained.

“CCSF is in a perilous financial position,” the report stated. “It can afford neither errors in its budget assumptions or accounting treatments nor additional unbudgeted expenses.”

The report said CCSF operates a far larger structure than similar institutions. It recommended eliminating positions through attrition. Currently, faculty accounts for 92 percent of CCSF’s operating budget, compared to 86 percent at similar colleges.

Additionally, City College has almost twice as many tenured faculty than other colleges, significantly more classified staff than other districts, and is ranked the third lowest in class sizes, the report said.

The 56-page report warned the college could face state intervention if problems are not fixed. However, CCSF’s board of trustees has already asked for the assistance of a special trustee to avoid that fate.

The report details the college’s current budget situation and makes more than 50 recommendations for improvement, including renegotiating labor contracts, closely monitoring staff hired under grants to ensure employment does not continue after the grant expires, and reducing the number of department chairs by restructuring instructional programs.

CCSF “is going through a difficult time,” said Michelle Plumbtree, chief management analyst with FCMAT. “We are talking about things that are both serious and real; we’re not exaggerating. This college is well above its peers in terms of staffing. … It has not implemented layoffs, closed campuses or cut programs.”

Trustees expressed concern over the report’s recommendation to spend more money in capital outlay and put more funds into reserves because the cuts will need to come from other places.

“To modify and arrive at some efficient manner implies we’ll have to reallocate resources,” Trustee Rodrigo Santos said. “And that has to come from somewhere.”

CCSF approved a $186 million operating budget earlier this month, a 4 percent decrease from the prior budget. It included cuts to employee pay, the elimination of 70 staff positions and reduced noninstructional spending by $875,000.

The school’s financial outlook could change in November depending on the outcome of a statewide tax measure and a local parcel tax, but the report noted the school is too dependent on the unknowns and has no backup plan.

The report is independent of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, which is vetting CCSF’s accreditation.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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