Peninsula College awaits word on how deep cutbacks will be in 2009

PORT ANGELES — Peninsula College administrators are waiting on the edges of their seats for the governor’s proposed budget to be released later this month.

Among the severe cuts expected when Gov. Chris Gregoire releases her proposed biennial budget next Thursday is decreased funding for community colleges.

President Tom Keegan said that he has heard the cuts could range between 20 to 30 percent of present state funding.

“We really don’t know at this point,” he said.

Rep. Lynn Kessler said that the 20 to 30 percent range sounded about right, given what she has heard at recent meetings with other leaders in the state Legislature and in Gov. Chris Gregoire’s office.

“Absolutely everything is on the table for cuts,” Kessler said.

“This is an unprecedented downturn in the economy.

“This is not hurting just community colleges, but also our whole state, nation and world.”

Kessler said the Legislature would try to soften the blow to community colleges, but that it was a challenging budget year ,with a potential of $2 billion in cuts for the state.

“There is no way around it. We have to protect the basic education of students kindergarten through 12th grade because that is a constitutional mandate,” Kessler said.

“That is 41 percent of the budget, so what happens is, when you can’t cut there, the cuts to all the rest of the areas become draconian.”

No plans yet

Deborah Frazier, vice president of administrative services, said the current budget was for about $16.9 million, and that the college keeps about 25 percent of that in reserves.

Before making any decisions or predictions, Keegan said, the college administration wants to see the governor’s proposal.

The state Legislature convenes on Jan. 12, and will begin work on the budget for two years, from July 2009 through June 2011.

After the governor’s proposal is known, college officials will begin work on a preliminary budget, including possible cuts.

Keegan said he didn’t know what might be slashed.

“We haven’t even speculated to that yet,” he said.

“It is much too early to tell what areas will be more vulnerable to cuts.

“We have not prioritized anything at all, except to say that we will maintain a high quality level of instruction and services, and we will fulfill our central missions as a community college.”

It probably will be mid-January before meetings are held with campus administration to determine any priorities, Keegan said.

Across Peninsula

Peninsula College, which serves a total of about 1,500 full-time students, also has two satellite campuses in Forks and Port Townsend.

Keegan, in answer to direct questions, said he had not given any consideration to whether those areas would be more vulnerable to cuts, or whether faculty or other staff would be cut throughout the system.

“We have not even talked about that,” he said.

The enrollments at the satellite campuses weren’t immediately available.

Protecting community colleges, especially in hard economic times, is especially important, Kessler said.

“During hard times, people need retraining, and some people are going for that higher education,” she said.

“We will thoughtfully go through the budget, and really pick the priorities, especially in these times, as more people want to get into community colleges when the economy goes down in this unprecedented way.”

Kessler said that economic stimulus packages from the federal government were on the horizon that could potentially ease the strain on the state budget.


Reporter Paige Dickerson can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at

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