Thoughts on Budget Planning

May 31, 2012

Dear Colleagues,

I want to be in touch with you about the college budget and our planning process for addressing the fiscal crisis forced on us by the state.

Many of you attended the recent districtwide meeting at which Chancellor Thor and Vice Chancellor McElroy described the extent of the Foothill-De Anza budget shortfall ( None of the news we heard that day was good, confirming what we have been tracking over the past several months. Indeed, we began our college budget reduction planning even before we got the most recent numbers, and are by now well into that planning. See the latest summary here:

At De Anza, we are looking at reductions ranging from $5.5 million in the best-case scenario to $7.5 million in a worst-case scenario if the governor's tax proposal fails in November. There are troubling new developments that might add to our problem: The anticipated funding from state redevelopment agencies is not likely to materialize and state revenue projections may fall short of expectations. Most critically, the district and college carryover and stability funds of one-time dollars may not last through of the next academic year as we had hoped.

It is important that each of us -- faculty, classified professionals and administrators -- grasp the magnitude of our problem. It is bizarre that we are in the position of calling a $5.5 million college reduction a "best case" scenario. "Best" and "worst" are both awful. We must plan for the worst case, and it is an emotional and intellectual challenge to do so. But the state has given us no choice.

As we face these budget realities, let me be as clear as I can about the values that animate our work:

We will maintain the core academic programs of the college to the degree possible.
We will protect the most vulnerable of our students and we will try to continue the services that most affect these students.

We will maintain the identity of the college: our commitments to quality, innovation and creativity; diversity, equity and social justice; and democracy and engagement.
In short, I know that we will work to fulfill our mission. The mission statement is posted across the campus, and was not done so as a pre-accreditation exercise. It is, rather, a set of guiding principles we will make every effort to honor.

Our three Planning and Budget Teams (PBTs), composed of faculty, classified professionals, administrators and students, are deeply into detailed analyses of each program, process, structure and project in their respective areas. You can read updates about the work of the Instructional, Student Services, and Finance and Educational Resources PBTs on their websites at> Work will continue through the summer, with proposals going to College Council in early fall. College Council -- also composed of representatives from all our constituency groups -- is charged with making recommendations to me as the president. I will then forward a final proposal to the chancellor, and through her, to the board of trustees.

I do not have to tell you that this is exhausting work. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to those of you doing your very best in the PBTs to review and evaluate college programs. It is impossible to avoid the obvious: All options will negatively affect our students and their families, and each of us and our families.

Every member of the PBTs, including the leadership, is already operating under extreme stress, and they need our collective appreciation and support. None of us chose this crisis. We did not manufacture the state's inability to support education. And none of us would choose to cut other state programs upon which our students often depend in health and social services, and in which others are going through the same budget reductions we are.

But the state does not give us a pass. So we do the work, albeit with a heavy spirit. We are already grieving, and many of us -- including me -- carry around a burden of hurt. Yet no matter how angry I get at the legislature, no matter my analysis of the inadequacies of the tax system or the inequalities of wealth and privilege, in the end I am still faced with the responsibility to deliver a balanced budget to district leadership and a board of trustees who are, themselves, grieving.

Alongside the PBT process, De Anza senior staff will be engaging in conversations with the Foothill cabinet and Central Services leadership. In addition, district leadership and leaders of the various collective bargaining units are forming an ad hoc labor/management task force to review districtwide proposals in an effort to maximize our district efficiencies. All ideas will be welcome. It cannot and will not replace the bargaining table, but it could be a welcome new space for dialogue.

There will be a natural tendency among us all to be upset no matter where we end up. There is no "fat" to cut. There is no "waste," a general claim of some public sector critics. Every program we have is a good program. Every employee matters. But at the end of this process we will be smaller, and we will have lost colleagues.

Because our reductions are being made so thoughtfully, based upon our mission statement, our identity as De Anza College will remain. We will continue to serve students: our inspiration and our purpose. They have fought to protect our budgets when they could. We will do our level best to protect them and the programs that serve them.

As a final note: Please vote next Tuesday, and vote in November. Your participation in the democratic process is never more critical than it is now.

I will be back in touch with more updates as they develop.

Brian Murphy

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