PRESTONSBURG — The Big Sandy Community and Technical College Board of Directors approved its upcoming budget and discussed impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic last week.

The college moved classes online and implemented other measures to slow the spread of the virus. The changes impact the BSCTC budget.

BSCTC furloughed 25 temporary employees who worked in areas where remote work was not feasible. The list included lab assistants, an instructor in driver's education, tutors, clerical staff and security personnel.

BSCTC Chief Financial Officer Michelle Meek said she expects the college to have a shortfall of less than $1 million this fiscal year, which ends June 30, reporting that most of the funding loss was caused by the loss of $2 million in tuition revenue. She said it's "been a tough year from a revenue standpoint." As of April 30, BSCTC received about $9.9 million in tuition, and it had about $11.9 budgeted for this fiscal year.

"This is where we are. There are still lots of unknowns of going between now and June 30, but we will keep monitoring," she said. "Do I think we'll be short this year? Yes. Do I think it's going to be the $2 million? No, I don't."

She said she expects $500,000 in savings from salaries, with furloughs and retirements, as well as other savings and new revenues to offset the expected shortfall. She said BSCTC implemented a spending freeze because of the tuition shortfall.

"While I'm hopeful that we have some mandatory expenditures that we have to approve, when those goes through, but I am hoping that with the spending freeze, that will help give us a few more dollars to offset the shortfall," she said. "So, my projection will be that we will be less that $1 million short, which is still a lot and still scary. But, do we have the funds? We do."

She said BSCTC could access reserve funds to compensate for the loss if finances aren't improved by the end of the fiscal year and a shortfall does occur.

She presented the proposed $39.7 million 2020-2021 budget, which was approved by the board and must also be approved by the Kentucky Community and Technical College System Board of Regents in June.

Meek said some of the assumptions used to develop the budget included no raises for staff and a delay in the reinstatement of furloughed employees, who may not be called back until August, after the new semester starts. It also includes a proposed 2.87 percent tuition increase — an increase of $5 per credit hour.

The proposed budget estimates about $10.3 million in tuition in the next fiscal year, and it has a reserve of $639,800 — 3 percent of public funds allocation, which is required by the state — and, Meek said, an additional 1 percent, or $102,600, in reserve for a "potential state budget cut," for a total reserve of $741,700.

Board Member Pamela Howard questioned $17 million allotted for personnel, reporting it accounts for about 40 percent of the budget, voicing concerns about the possibility of low enrollment in the fall. BSCTC President/CEO Dr. Sherry Zylka explained, however, that more people enroll in college when the economy is bad.

Meek said BSCTC is tracking all expenses related to COVID-19 in anticipation that some or all of it may be reimbursed.

She said BSCTC lost revenue because of the virus, including more than $200,000 in workforce development funding for the current fiscal year. She said KCTCS and the Kentucky Council on Post Secondary Education are working to help colleges find the funding they need.

Officials explained that BSCTC has been developing a re-entry plan that must be approved by the state prior to implementation.

"So, do we have concerns for the upcoming year? The answer is absolutely, yes. With our enrollment, we don't know what it looks like, as I said, earlier, usually when there's a downturn in the economy, people come back to the college, and we're hoping that's the case," Zylka said. "We figure the majority of it will be online, but we are going to try to offer a full compliment of classes to allow us to have the flexibility to start some of them face-to-face, but maybe transition over to remote, if necessary."

She said BSCTC is working to increase enrollment and hopes that students who planned to move out the area for college will decide, instead, to enroll.

At the meeting, officials expressed excitement about a partnership with Pikeville Medical Center to expand the BSCTC nursing program. BSCTC plans to present the proposal to the KCTCS board in June and seek approval from the college's accrediting bodies. That program will start in January or August 2021, depending on the approval processes.

BSCTC will also see changes in the revenues it receives from facility leases. The college will gain about $13,000 to lease an office space in Prestonsburg to the University of Kentucky for the HEALing Communities Study, with officials reporting that staff will move in this month, and it will also gain $36,000 from General Dynamics, an information technology firm that leases space at Mayo.

Officials said BSCTC does not plan to renew its lease with the Kentucky Advanced Manufacturing Institute, a CNC machining company at its Mayo Campus in Paintsville. The company pays BSCTC $1,400 to lease the facility, officials said, and the lease expires June 30.

The company has been creating personal protective equipment needed because of the pandemic and presented documentation stating that their work is critical at this time. BSCTC officials reported that the college is still expecting the lease to expire, however, because the college received a grant to create its own CNC program.

BSCTC Provost/CAO Dr. Denise King said the program would train students in CNC machining and water jet manufacturing.

"So, these are training opportunities that could create a skilled workforce to populate and support the economic development of our region, which we feel is more advantageous to our mission than supporting a single industry," King said.

Howard asked whether graduates would have to move to find work.

King told her, "Well, you know, and there is that fine line because, on the one hand, if we're going to attract industry here, we need to demonstrate that we can provide a skilled workforce. On the other hand, if we provide a skilled workforce that doesn't have opportunities and they leave us. So, it's a very tight line that we're trying to walk here and to be a part of developing our economy without developing a workforce that leads us."

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