CNCC pulls $500K from reserves, implements hiring freeze | CraigDailyPress.com

CNCC pulls $500K from reserves, implements hiring freeze

Three month freeze will allow new president to evaluate budget projections







Colorado Northwestern Community College is the first place in Northwest Colorado to experience freezing conditions this summer.

A hiring freeze has temporarily been implemented due to budgetary concerns and to give the new president time to understand how the institution operates.

CNCC drew down about a half-million dollars from cash reserves for its 2015-16 fiscal year, according to former CNCC President Russell George, who is currently acting as an adviser to the new CNCC president Ronald Granger.

The 2015-16 end of year financial report is currently being prepared and was not ready at the time of publication. Reasons for the cash reserves expenditure are currently unknown.

"How come we ate into savings? We are looking into it to fix it immediately. We don't want to be underestimating and overspending again," George said.

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Personnel is the highest expenditure for the college according to George, making a temporary hiring freeze one of the best ways to avoid additional overspending while 2016-17 budget projections are re-examined by the new president.

"CNCC is in a hiring freeze for three months until the new president gets his feet wet," said Angie Binder, director of public information for the Colorado Community College System.

The community college system is the governing body for 13 community colleges in Colorado of which CNCC is a member.

According to Binder, CNCC is the only community college in Colorado on a temporary hiring freeze. Instituting a freeze during a presidential transition is not necessarily standard practice.

"A hiring freeze is not automatic when a new president comes on at a system college. We evaluate each transition on a case-by-case basis to determine whether to preserve the status quo in terms of staffing during the transition," Binder said.

The freeze will impact 20 vacancies for full-time exempt and classified positions, and the majority of vacancies are management and facilities jobs based in Rangely. Hiring will continue for critical positions, adjunct teaching faculty and part-time roles, George.

"We are hiring 11 new faculty members and staff that are deemed essential personnel who have direct impact on student academics," said Brian MacKenzie, marketing director for CNCC.

George described the freeze as "hitting the pause button." He said that the freeze would not change the number or types of classes being offered for fall semester.

"We are not talking about layoffs. We always have vacancies. We draw a line so we are not spending those budgeted numbers. A freeze allows for an ability to control expenditures while we take a closer look (at the budget). We are also implementing other cost savings and a wait on discretionary spending," he said.

During the annual review of CNCC finances, the community college system noticed that projections were not as forecast.

"We monitor every college budget all the time to ensure that they are in line with revenue forecasts, " Binder said.

George further explained the process.

"The system office reviews the books as part of their annual process. The system saw that we had used more cash reserves than was expected from last year and they started asking why and advised that we be careful as our FTE factors are a little less than last year," George said.

George explained that community colleges base their revenue forecasts on full-time enrollment or FTEs. About one-third of CNCC's revenue comes from state appropriations, one third is from tuition and one third is from the local taxing district, according to George.

"Like everyone we are experiencing very difficult financial times. We are trying not to spend as we take another look. We have better control over costs than revenues so we look to those first. We need to give the new president a chance to figure out what's going on," George said.

Reducing costs in the short term will provide time for the new president to fully evaluate the situation and make any course corrections.

CNCC's new president officially started work Monday. His first order of business was to travel to the Front Range to participate in an annual meeting of community college presidents and was unavailable for comment.

"We doubt that (the hiring freeze) will last. None of the positions are new, we may have some realignments. We are accustomed to having these positions filled and they are in the budget," George said.

Visitors to the CNCC website can see positions listed as available.

"We don't shut anything down. But we won't be incurring expenses in interviews and we won't be incurring expenses in hiring," George said.

The hiring freeze is expected to thaw in November.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.