Nearly a year and a half after deeming Santa Fe Community College was in a financial emergency, the school’s governing board voted unanimously Wednesday to remove the declaration.
The emergency declaration, in place since May 2020, gave community college President Becky Rowley more authority to lay off employees and close programs without the usual public process that offers opportunities for board members, staff and the community to pose challenges.
“Going forward, we do anticipate that we will still have to watch our revenue and to look for other ways to enhance our revenue and cut expenses at the same time,” Rowley said prior to the board vote.
The college saw a staff reduction of more than 80 positions and the closure of five degree programs during the fiscal emergency. Administrators estimate the moves shaved off $715,000 in expenses for the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years.
However, the decisions drew concern from some faculty, who noted rules on financial emergency declarations at the college were unclear.
To balance the budget, the college also used more than $380,000 of its cash reserves, reported at $7.8 million earlier this year.
Administrators had said the decision for the emergency declaration was based on a projected $1.2 million deficit for fiscal year 2021 and a $1.4 million deficit this year.
Nick Telles, the college’s vice president of finance, said the issues have been resolved.
“We have a balanced budget. Any abrupt decisions to make changes to our workforce on campus is not really there,” he added.
Still, Rowley said the college likely would not fill vacant staff positions due to an enrollment decline since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think we have to evaluate carefully whether or not we need the same number of staff as people retire and move on, or whatever, as we always have,” Rowley said.
A recent enrollment report shows a nearly 3.5 percent rise in students registered for fall 2021 compared to fall 2020 numbers, but data shows enrollment dropped 36 percent between 2016 and 2020.