PICO BLVD — The Santa Monica College Board of Trustees approved a budget that preserved jobs but quietly axed the winter session Thursday night in the face of student protest.
The budget promises a $4 million deficit in the 2012-13 school year — half of the $8.8 million of red the school spent this year — and is predicated on the passage of a tax measure put forward by Gov. Jerry Brown to maintain education funding.
“We have a looming catastrophe that we’re faced with, and something called Proposition 30,” said Chui Tsang, president of SMC.
Failure of that bill would result in an immediate loss of $7.8 million, according to a presentation given by Chris Bonvenuto, the director of finance for the college.
While some of the areas of saving included cutting down on student costs not covered by the state and spending less on supplies, the one that brought out the crowd wasn’t even included in the discussion, mainly because it wasn’t in the budget.
The winter intersession, an eight-week period in which courses are offered between the fall and spring, cost $2.5 million, according to SMC officials.
Last year, the college offered 400 courses, down by half from its high of 800.
Winter 2013, however will get nothing.
That doesn’t sit well with students like Jazmin Tlaxcala, who believes that money to support the winter session can be found in the pockets of the administration.
“Since 2009, the administration raises and bonuses have been $3 million,” Tlaxcala said. “Why are we cutting? … Let’s have them share the pain.”
Others blamed the lack of a winter session on bad management. The summer session was beefed up to the point that not enough students enrolled, said Mikhail Pronilover, a student organizer who will be transferring to CSU Los Angeles, implying that there could have been enough resources for winter otherwise.
A student who would not give his name to the board gave a more philosophical answer.
“This is not a crisis of resources. Like in the wider world, this is a crisis of the distribution of resources,” he said.
The trustees’ responses to the outpouring of emotion focused mainly on the practical — passing Proposition 30.
“Be sure you’re registered to vote and study the material that Associated Students has on Proposition 30. It is an idea by which we could, if it passes, have enough money to continue to offer classes to meet the demand,” said Trustee Susan Aminoff.
While the college has been able to ride out the worst of the recession using its reserves as a cushion to prevent cuts to staff and students, that money is dwindling.
Since the 2010-11 school year, reserves have gone from over $23 million to a projected $11 million at the end of the 2012-13 school year, according to Bonvenuto.
“We have delayed and done everything we can,” said Trustee Louise Jaffe. “We’re cutting as carefully as we can while still trying to move forward.”
Trustees plan to use that reserve judiciously so that they can continue correcting the financial course of the college without sinking the ship, said Trustee Rob Rader on Friday.
“We still have a nice reserve so we can continue making adjustments that will not destroy our ongoing ability to survive and still offer unbelievable education to as many students as we can serve,” Rader said.
The trustees haven’t found accusations that the college is letting the monetary cream rise to the top very compelling, he said.
“Every time we look at it, we’ve not been convinced of that,” Rader said.
SMC is one of the last colleges to end its winter session, and it was the first in California to debut the concept in 1992.
Students also took issue with a goal adopted by the board called “priority enrollment,” which would give first dibs on registration to students that live in the district, i.e. Santa Monica or Malibu.
According to past estimates, only 15 percent of the students at SMC come from Santa Monica, although Santa Monicans support hundreds of millions in bonds which have funded new facilities for the school.

ashley@smdp.com

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