TCC officials looking at cost-cutting options

FORT WORTH -- Officials at Tarrant County College are approaching a grim budget season with a number of cost-cutting ideas, including a review of full-time temporary faculty, a potential 3 percent cut in operating expenses and a hiring freeze.

"It's early and everything is still up for consideration and review," said Louise Appleman, president of the TCC board of trustees. "We will address the issues one by one. Right now the faculty, deans and presidents are grappling with it."

A 5 percent cut in state funding for colleges and universities looms over TCC, as does a projected drop in local property values. The college district lost more than $1 billion in taxable value, off about 1 percent from last year, according to preliminary figures from the Tarrant Appraisal District. The district's taxable value is about $125.9 billion, down from about $127 billion last year.

Earlier this year, TCC listed three cost-saving measures in a preliminary plan submitted to the state. The plan, which officials stressed is a blueprint, has a potential 3 percent cut in operating budgets systemwide and mentions a hiring freeze for nonfaculty positions.

The proposal estimates that TCC would save about $1.2 million through operating cuts and about $700,000 through a hiring freeze.

The recommendation to replace temporary full-time faculty "to the greatest extent possible by adjuncts" has stirred discussion on campuses as the spring semester winds down. TCC estimates it that could save about $900,000 with that move.

Full-time temporary faculty at TCC are instructors who have been hired for a school year. This year, 101 instructors fell in this category. As with other faculty, their pay is based on experience and education. They get benefits, but the job ends once the contract is up unless it's renewed.

Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley said 62 temporary instructors will be in next fiscal year's budget. The fate of the 39 other slots remains unclear as campuses weigh needs, education trends and funding.

"That's all being worked out," Hadley said.

The contracts expire this month.

"There was no provision for renewal," she said, adding that in some cases slots could be advertised as being open.

Ernest Gines, assistant professor of computer science and the faculty association president for the Southeast Campus in Arlington, said he has heard complaints and concerns.

"It's not an easy solution," Gines said, adding that word on his campus is that jobs will be advertised as soon as possible.

Reaction among full-time temporary faculty has been marked by confusion.

At the Northeast Campus in Hurst, these instructors have been told by their deans that the positions have been removed, but that they can re-apply for slots that will be budgeted, said Sean Foushee, a full-time temporary faculty member who teaches Web design, animation and publishing.

Foushee said instructors have known all along that their contracts would be up, but they would like more information about which jobs will be open so they know whether they should apply.

"The problem is nobody knows which positions are becoming permanent and which positions are gone," he said.

One Northwest Campus faculty member, who didn't want to be identified for fear of retribution, said there has been little communication about what is happening.

"It's trickled down through the grapevine," the faculty member said.

Some question why TCC would consider cutting faculty when enrollment has been growing.

"It's not a popular decision," the faculty member said. "It's going to cripple so many departments."

But William Lace, TCC's vice chancellor for administration, said that tuition generates only about 25 percent of TCC's operating budget, which is $350 million this fiscal year. Another 25 percent comes from the state, and the bulk, or about 50 percent, comes from property taxes.

Lace said while he understands the faculty members' concerns, TCC has to make decisions based on needs.

"Right now, there is no guarantee for the fall," Lace said.

DIANE SMITH, 817-390-7675