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April 06, 2010 3:40 am

NWC budget taking shape

Written by Tribune Staff

No reductions in force planned

The financial picture at Northwest College is brightening some these days over much gloomier estimates earlier this year.

The college will begin the coming budget year with a carryover balance of $200,000, thanks to changes in state money and local tax support, revenue from tuition and fees and federal stimulus funding, said NWC President Paul Prestwich.

In addition, Prestwich said Northwest College's share of federal stimulus money provided to the state's seven community colleges for the coming biennium will be about $225,000 for the next two budget years, for a total of $450,000.

Prestwich said the federal stimulus money, which is one-time funding, should be used for non-recurring expenses.

Another $189,900 is expected to be saved due to retirements, resignations and position restructuring at the college. For instance, Prestwich told the NWC Board of Trustees that positions in the music department held by retiring instructors Mike Masterson and Ronnie Bedford will be combined into a single position.

Because of those gains, no reductions in force will be necessary in the coming biennium, which starts July 1, he said.

However, the good economic news is offset somewhat by the need to budget $50,000 for a possible budget reduction through redistribution to other colleges, and another $50,000 to pay for retirement contributions. The college now is required to pay for a portion of retirement benefits that formerly were paid by the state.

However, Prestwich noted that positions of vice president for academic affairs and student activities coordinator will be filled with no major changes in responsibilities.

Using this updated information, “We've made many initial decisions regarding our budget,” Prestwich said. “We've identified about $275,000 worth of initiatives. A lot of them are small as far as dollars are concerned, but I think will have a big impact to students.”

Those include:
• $48,000 for new software licenses.
• $35,000 to transition from WebCT to Moodle, a Web-based platform for interactive distance education — everything from online courses, to Web-based courses faculty members use.
• $30,000 to create the initial budget for the college's planned radio station.
• $20,500 for computer hardware, computing services and a bandwidth increase.
• $20,000 to pay for contracted services to create online forms and Web pages.
• $16,000 to increase support staff for international students' academic programs and weekend activities.
• $15,000 to human resources for supplemental staff costs.
• $12,805 for the Hinckley library to pay for employees to move books and shelves into the library's new addition and to staff a new late-night study area at the library.
• $10,000 to increase the adjunct faculty budget if NWC enrollment continues to grow.
• $10,000 to expand the program for the college's kick-off weekend.
• $9,500 for a content management system used to add content to the NWC Web site and keep it as current as possible.
• $9,325 for increased hours for disabilities services.
• $8,000 to establish a start-up budget for athletic training.
• $5,500 for increased contracted services for the athletic department.

In addition, Northwest College will receive $2.1 million in federal stimulus money during the coming biennium to replace major maintenance funding that has come from the state of Wyoming in the past.

That money will be used on small and large construction projects to ensure the college's physical plant is in good repair and functioning well.

Federal guidelines require that money to be spent on buildings that are used for instruction, and the projects must be completed by Sept. 30, 2011, Prestwich said.

“All of these dollars are one-time funds,” he said. He expressed hope that the state will provide major maintenance money again in the future.

“Without that, you can let things slide that just can be really a challenge to fix later,” he said. “Once you're in a position not to keep up with maintenance, it adds up and is very hard to correct.”

The NWC Board of Trustees will hear a preliminary budget presentation at its meeting on Monday, April 12 in the Trapper Room at Northwest College. The meeting begins at 4 p.m., with public comments taken at 5 p.m.