From “Tough budget choices loom for BTC” —  MONROE — Shrinking state and federal funding and a shrinking enrollment will mean tough decisions for Blackhawk Technical College as it plans its 2012-13 budget.

Tuition will go up, as will taxes, according to a budget summary prepared for the board’s meeting Wednesday night at the Monroe campus.

Enrollment, which shot up during the economic downturn, is expected to decline 4 percent.

Tuition, set by the state technical college board, will rise 4.5 percent.

Taxes to support the operational budget would not change but debt service would increase for an overall 1.9 percent increase in the tax levy to $20.42 million.

Tax projections are calculated on an equalized basis. The actual tax effect on the assessed property values in any individual municipality are not yet known.

The Blackhawk Technical College Board imposes property taxes on a district that comprises most of Rock and Green counties. The taxes are one of the smaller amounts that make up a property owners’ entire tax bill, which also includes levies from school boards, county boards and municipal government.

The proposed budget would draw on district reserves. The fund balance would be depleted by $814,727 to pay for one-time initiatives and limited-duration expenses.

Computer equipment is “relatively up to date,” but instructional equipment “is lagging behind industry standards,” according to a budget memo, so the district would borrow $4.1 million for capital equipment and improvements.

“Increased capital investment in instructional equipment and technology is necessary over the next three years to ensure our students are learning on equipment and systems that are relevant to the work environment,” the memo states.

The memo stresses BTC’s mission in preparing workers to meet the needs of local business and industry.

The 2011-13 state budget cut statewide technical college aid by 30 percent and capped property tax levies for operational uses at 2010 levels, according to a budget summary.

Act 10, which required employees to contribute to their pensions, helped.

“But a significant budget gap remained,” according to the memo.

Operational revenue is expected to drop 3.3 percent to $30.68 million.

The administration decided against across-the-board cuts to balance the budget. That approach “simply promotes mediocrity,” according to the memo.

As previously announced, cuts will include suspension of the aircraft maintenance program, cutting enrollment in electrical power distribution and closing the central campus child care center.

In addition, BTC has decided to end Tech Knowledge College, a summer program for middle-schoolers, and to cut the position of coordinator for the high ropes course known as Ed-Venture.

Administrative and support positions were reduced, as well. Overall salary and benefits costs are projected to decline by $122,696.

A moratorium on out-of-state travel would be imposed, saving $71,720.

From “Governor’s tools bring ‘real morale problems’ to higher ed” —  Hiked pension and employee health insurance contributions failed to fully offset shrinking budgets at La Crosse higher education institutions.

Gov. Scott Walker’s “tools” dulled the full impact of extensive state aid cuts, but both Western Technical College and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse were forced to slash elsewhere to make up the difference.

“A lot of the flexibilities that they talked about have not been realized yet,” said Bob Hetzel, UW-L vice chancellor for administration and finance. UW-L saved about $1.1 million with the tools, but only in the face of $5.2 million in cuts. Then, this fall, the state announced a budget “lapse” for a number of government services, including UW System schools.

The lapse means UW-L will have to find $1.9 million to $3.2 million to return to the state. The state has yet to decide the exact amount.

Savings from Walker’s tools — increased pension and insurance contributions — come with a big downside, UW-L Chancel-

lor Joe Gow said. They hit the pocketbooks of university faculty and staff, especially those on the low-end of the pay scale.

“The effect of this is that state employees are taking home less compensation,” Gow said. “That causes real morale problems.”

The university has put off maintenance and improvement plans to fill the gap.

Western lost $2.3 million in state aid, and Walker’s tools saved the college only $1.5 million. Western was forced to cut classes and staff positions to make up the difference.

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From “BTC considers cutting aviation program” — ROCK TOWNSHIP–Members of the Blackhawk Technical College Board in two weeks will consider eliminating the school’s aviation program to save $370,000, President Thomas Eckert said.

Meanwhile, program supporters are scrambling to convince the board that the aviation program is a necessary one, said Jim Freeman, owner of Helicopter Specialties, Janesville, and an alumnus of the school.

Eckert will propose the cut at the board’s regular meeting Wednesday, Nov. 16. The program’s three instructors have been notified the program is being considered for suspension, Eckert said.

The decision was financially driven, Eckert said.

“Nobody wants this, but we had a 30 percent reduction in state aid, and our levies have been capped,” Eckert said. “We would prefer not to do this, but we just don’t have a choice.”

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From Burning Questions: FVTC’s May talks about college’s mission” — Fox Valley Technical College has been providing education to the people of this area for many years.

A hundred of them, to be exact.

FVTC is celebrating a milestone birthday this year. It’s one that the college wants to share with the nine counties it serves through its Grand Chute campus as well as its Oshkosh campus, its five regional centers and its nine training centers.

“We officially kick off what will be a yearlong celebration,” said Susan May, FVTC’s president. “What we want to do is use many of our existing events to do a little special something to celebrate that.

“We’re also doing some special things. A very nifty centennial website has been created that people can go in and share stories that they have about their interactions with the college. We’re really encouraging people to take a look at the photos we have from back to the early 1900s and share their stories.

“While celebrating that history, we’re thinking a lot about what the future holds and how we begin to build the next century of service to our communities.”

As the guest on last week’s Newsmakers online interview show at postcrescent. com, May talked about FVTC’s mission, what makes it unique and what’s ahead for the college this year.

From The New York Times: “Community College as a Bridge to New Skills”— The recession hastened a trend that has been under way for at least a decade: the disappearance of jobs paying middle-class wages that required no more than a high school education.

On Sunday, I wrote about how vocational programs could help keep students in high school, and in turn, engage them enough to continue to college.

But in the course of the recession and its aftermath, many of those who have flocked to community college programs in health care, manufacturing, aerospace, biotechnology and other vocational subjects are those who lost their jobs during the downturn.

Mark McSweeney, a 34-year-old former welder featured in a report from the video journalists at Purple States, started out trying to improve his skills to find work in a new sector. Halfway through his studies, he lost his job.

After two years, he obtained an associate’s degree in applied science in the metals engineering technology program at Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, N.C., where about three-quarters of the students are people who had been working before returning to college. After Mr. McSweeney completed his degree, he landed a job inspecting electronic parts.

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From the Fond du Lac Reporter: “Businesses step up to save MPTC program” — Businesses in the engine industry have stepped up to save a specialized associate degree program offered at Moraine Park Technical College.

At a recent meeting, the MPTC District Board voted to reinstate the college’s decades-old Engine Research and Development Technician program. The program was suspended in May because of the college’s projected $3.1 million budget shortfall.

“We’re very happy about it, and it’s great to have the industry’s support and partnership,” said Jim Eden, MPTC executive dean of instruction.

Major backer Briggs & Stratton of Milwaukee has committed $80,000 to cover costs. The small engine manufacturer has several employees who are graduates of the program.

Craig Claerbout, a technician specialist at Briggs and a member of the Moraine Park Engine Research and Development Advisory Committee, was among the professionals who spoke to the MPTC District Board, asking that the program be given another chance because it meets the industry’s employment needs.

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From the Fond du Lac Reporter: “New MPTC president returns to roots”— Sheila Ruhland is ready to take on the challenge of Gov. Scott Walker’s budget bill as new president of Moraine Park Technical College.

The two-year, $66-billion state budget, headed to Walker’s desk after it cleared the state Legislature with only Republican votes, cuts aid to technical colleges by 30 percent, or $72 million.

“I recognize the work ahead and the challenges we are now faced with,” Ruhland said. “I am coming aboard to join a very strong team set up under the previous leadership.”

Federal budget cuts that support career technical education also appear to be eminent, she said.

“No doubt the cuts will have an impact on our school and our property tax levy, as well as collective bargaining with our faculty and staff. I intend to provide leadership and support to these groups,” Ruhland said.


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