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COD officials look at budget with $2.5 million deficit

Updated: June 20, 2013 6:42AM

The College of DuPage Board of Trustees got its first look at the proposed 2014 budget this Thursday.

While the college’s financial rating is good, challenges loom in the immediate future — challenges that may lead to an increase in tuition.

At the core of the college’s potential problems is the failure of the state of Illinois to deliver on funding education, college officials said.

“The state continues to be a significant challenge to the college,” Thomas Glaser, senior vice president of Finance and Administration, said.

Glaser told the Board that the state operating grant was cut for the 2014 budget by about $653,000 and will come to only $12.3 million total, far below the one-third of total funding it is supposed to provide.

Other items in the proposed budget are increases in salaries by 3.55 percent and health insurance costs shooting up 14 percent.

The 2014 operating fund sees a 3.8 percent increase in revenues for a total of $172.3 million, but expenses increased 4.1 percent to $174.8 million, leaving a deficit of about $2.5 million, which the college will cover by dipping into its fund balance.

The shortfall is that there’s a $4 per credit hour tuition increase set to begin in the fall. More bad news may follow, including $22 million in shifting pension costs from the state and another $4.4 million in penalties from the Affordable Care Act for having “Cadillac” health insurance plans, college officials said.

Glaser warned that tuition increases may be a regular feature in the immediate future, saying, “It’s something we will have to look at every year.”

The mention of another tuition increase sparked a discussion led by newly elected Trustee Kathy Hamilton, who pointed to the college’s $120 million unrestricted fund balance and questioned the need for tuition hikes.

“We might want to think about raising that tuition every year,” she said.

Her colleague Joe Wozniak, who voted against the tuition hike beginning in the fall, said that he thought that there were measures in place to cope with possible financial setbacks.

However, COD Board Chairwoman Erin Birt spoke in favor of an incremental approach to tuition hikes, noting that it would be better than to hold off for several years and then hit students with a huge increase.

“It’s very difficult for all of us,” she said of facing the decision to increase tuition. “To do this incrementally is the best way to do it.”

A silver lining may be that, at the $140 per credit hour for in-district students beginning in 2013. The college is still very competitively priced, college officials said.

“We’re still an incredible bargain,” College President Robert Breuder said.

The formal public hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled for June 20.

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