Bill Mullowney

Legislative Update

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Reprinted from Vitae Magazine
An Interview with Dr. Bill Mullowney

Vitae Magazine keeps readers connected to the life and ideas of Valencia. A new feature…is an update on legislative matters that impact our work. Many of you supported Valencia’s legislative priorities as you communicated with members of your delegations.

Q. Just how did Valencia fare?

Despite revenue shortfalls, lawmakers passed a budget that recognizes the growth of colleges like Valencia. We received an increase of $4.3 million in state funding. Even with this 7.2 percent increase over last year, state funding is less than half of Valencia’s operating budget.

During the past four years, Valencia’s enrollment has grown 54 percent while our state funding increased only 36 percent. Our funding per FTE has dropped from $5,284 to $4,668 per FTE during that same period. So while we appreciate this year’s increase in funding, the challenges remain great.

For the third consecutive year, the legislature declined to fund the community college system’s challenge matching grants program. If funded, Valencia’s foundation would have received more than $3.6 million.

Q. How does Valencia, with its tremendous enrollment growth, make up the difference?

Tuition and fees fund a large part of operating expenses. This year, the legislature authorized local college boards of trustees to increase tuition by 8 percent. In May, following consultation with students, Valencia’s trustees raised tuition by 5% for 2010-11, rather than by the full 8% allowed.

In addition, federal stimulus dollars help address our growth. The Florida College System (FCS) received the second and final installment of $83 million in federal stimulus funds. At Valencia, approximately $5 million is helping to meet growth needs by supporting the hiring of adjunct professors, also contributing to job creation, a key goal for the stimulus program.

Q. Where will the college find space for the increase in students, particularly at Osceola Campus where demand is greatest or for a new Lake Nona Campus?

An unexpected influx of Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) funds boosted state funding for facilities by $127 million. Valencia’s highest capital priority, Building 4 on the Osceola Campus received $21.7 million.

(Watch for details about this new 108,000 sq. ft. library and high tech classroom building in the next issue of Vitae.)

The Appropriations bill provides Valencia with needed flexibility to repurpose up to $4,775,380 of PECO funds for college facilities priority projects such as the first building of our new Lake Nona Campus and key renovations on the West Campus.

Q. What about next year? Are there any issues looming or changes that may affect Valencia employees?

There will be an interim actuarial study of the Florida Retirement System during the next year. Issues that could be included in the study are changing the average final compensation, employee participation/contribution in the FRS, elimination of a retirees Health Insurance Subsidy, capping final retirement benefits, changing or eliminating the automatic 3 percent annual cost of living benefit, eliminating the senior management retirement classification, eliminating the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP), and reducing what can be included (leave, overtime, faculty overloads, etc.) in the determination of final retirement benefits/costs.

The 2011-12 budget is expected to be “the cliff year” as the level of funding for those receiving state funds will drop off sharply, and current federal stimulus appropriations will be gone. Budget shortfalls could reach $5 billion, according to some estimates.

Q. What Can We Do?

Stay informed. Ask questions and share your thoughts with those actively involved in championing Valencia’s cause. Your voices make a difference.

Bill Mullowney is Vice President for Policy and General Counsel for Valencia. He serves as lobbyist and legislative counsel to the executive and legislative branches of the State of Florida.

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