NIC proposes $44M budget

Proposal will not raise taxes, tuition will see increase

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COEUR d'ALENE - North Idaho College released its $44 million 2016 budget proposal Wednesday, which is about 1.3 percent, or $561,000, larger than this year's budget.

The proposal does not include a tax increase, but raises tuition by $5 per credit for Kootenai County students and $8 per credit for all other students. That would generate $577,000 in new revenue.

Chris Martin, vice president for finance and business affairs, said the proposed budget includes an almost 4 percent raise for faculty and staff, which would amount to $1.2 million.

But Martin said the budget also includes an additional $600,000 in savings from this year's budget, $432,000 in new growth revenue and an increased appropriation from the state.

"The state appropriation will cover roughly one-third of the raises," Martin said. "The college will cover a little more than two-thirds of the raises."

Trustee Christie Wood said technically the pay increase isn't a raise. The administration is proposing to restore step increases that the board froze in 2013.

"It's putting back what we took away from them in 2013," Wood said. "It's not an increase at all; it is putting back what was already in their salary schedules."

During a board meeting Wednesday night in Sandpoint, Martin said there was some discussion of potentially raising taxes by 2 percent because new changes in the homeowner's exemption law would minimize the impact on the average homeowner.

"But there is no proposal for that yet," he said, adding if the board decided to levy a 2 percent increase, it would result in a "relatively small to no increase on the average homeowner."

That is because there is a larger tax base to spread the increase over, and the homeowners exemption law allows people who own and live in a $200,000 home to exempt $100,000 of their taxable property.

Trustee Ron Nilson said he is opposed to any tax increase, and he is concerned that the new budget doesn't address the issue of decreasing enrollments and "right-sizing" staff.

"Where is the accountability in faculty reduction?" Nilson asked. "I am not going to pass a budget that doesn't include some accountability from the faculty."

Nilson points to the fact that NIC's faculty-to-student ratio was at 36 students to one faculty member in 2012, and now it is down to 26 students for each faculty member.

"He is looking at those ratios from the 30,000-foot level," Martin said. "If you are going to look at right-sizing faculty, you have to go down another level and look at the programs."

Martin said some programs are still pretty full, where other programs may not be performing as well.

Wood said the administration is going to perform a program assessment to determine which programs might need to be adjusted.

"It gets pretty complicated. If you have two less students in an English class, we still have to offer the English class," she said. "If you have two less students in six English classes, you still have to offer six English classes.

"But if you have 10 less students in an English class, then you may have to look at canceling that class," she added. "But that is just one class and you still have the faculty member, who is still needed elsewhere."

Martin said NIC staff wants to make sure that they have analyzed everything if right-sizing does occur.

"This is a scalpel decision," he said. "We really want to make sure we are making the right decisions."

Martin said the college has been managing faculty levels by using adjunct faculty in times when enrollment is high, and managing attrition has also played a factor.

Faculty numbers peaked in 2013 and 2014 at 165 and 166 faculty members respectively.

In 2015 that number dropped to 154 faculty members, which is three fewer faculty members than NIC employed in 2010.

"The college wants to make sure we are good stewards of our resources," Martin said. "We want quality education outcomes for our students and the key to that quality is our faculty."

The proposed budget will now move to a budget workshop on May 8 at 11 a.m. on the Coeur d'Alene campus. The final budget will come before the Board of Trustees later in May.

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