WINCHESTER — Supporting deferred maintenance, a possible strategic fund and coming up with innovative ideas around tuition, were among the parameters the Umpqua Community College board of education gave regarding next year’s budget during Wednesday’s board meeting.

It was the first time the board discussed the budget for the next school year. UCC President Debra Thatcher guided the discussion and she asked the board to keep in mind the uncertainty of state allocations.

Topics that were discussed were: deferred maintenance, strategic initiatives, instructional fees and tuition.

Board chair Steve Loosley summed up the board’s interest as supporting deferred maintenance projects, being forward-thinking of a strategic fund to grow the college in new directions, be mindful of tuition in the new landscape of virtual learning, but not in strong support of the instructional fee.

Board member Doris Lathrop cautioned the board to be careful in allocating all its funds.

“In talking about the budget in general, I would just caution you that we can’t put out a presidential profile and request things from a president, such as taking risks and staying on top of technology, enhancing the quality of classes, staying in front of emerging trends. Then hire a president when Dr. Thatcher retires and say, ‘Oh, we didn’t budget for that. You can’t do that.’ I would suggest that we, when budgeting, take a look at that profile and that what we’re asking the new president to do will be funded.”

During a site analysis of the campus, it was determined that over the next 10 years the college will have to spend nearly $11 million on maintenance and deferred maintenance. Currently, the budget allows for approximately $160,000 annually in repairs.

Loosley said that he was told, “If you’ve balanced your budget, but you haven’t significantly set funds aside for deferred maintenance and the long haul, then you haven’t really balanced the budget.”

Board member David Littlejohn agrees with that sentiment and said that not investing in maintenance now would just kick the problem down the road.

“We didn’t get into this overnight and we’re not going to get out of it overnight,” Littlejohn said. “But we have to get out of it intentional.”

Another item that piqued the interest of the board was strategic initiatives or innovation funds, which would mean the college set aside a percentage of its overall budget to be used for plans to move the college forward, and possibly bring new programs on campus.

When it came to tuition, board members acknowledged that tuition had been steadily increasing for years and that the cost of college at UCC was not as transparent as at some other community colleges.

The board hoped to be more transparent but was also intrigued by the idea of tuition incentives — such as getting a free class after 30 credits or locking in tuition rates.

Littlejohn said, “If things are being pushed online that changes the entire regionality of where out students can access,” which in turn would mean tuition would become a much bigger factor to be competitive.

The first budget meeting is set for April 8, with a possibility for a second meeting on April 22. The budget hearing is planned for May 12, with an adoption of the budget scheduled for June 9.

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at sgodfrey@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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