CGCC president calls for Indian Creek campus closure

Deficit leads to Toda’s recommendation, which would be temporary – but ‘not a done deal,’ one board member says

Citing a $2 million budget deficit, the president of Columbia Gorge Community College on Tuesday recommended to the College board that it close the Indian Creek Campus temporarily in mid-2015.

CGCC president Dr. Frank Toda has suggested a three-part restructuring plan involving an undetermined number of layoffs and program cuts.

CGCC Chief Operating Officer Robb Van Cleave said the facility on the Heights would temporarily close by June 30, 2015, as part of a plan to deal with the district deficit that will also affect The Dalles campus.

CGCC Hood River Campus open Thursday

CGCC Hood River campus will be open Thursday, and counselors will continue to be made available to students and staff following the death of a staff member.

The campus was closed Tuesday, and open with no classes Wednesday.

The deceased is Greg Herman of Hood River, a custodian who had worked there for three years.

“The magnitude of reductions necessary will mean significant service level impacts,” Toda said in an emailed statement. “The most visible of which will be at the Hood River campus, where I have directed staff to immediately begin planning for its closure.”

But the matter “is not a done deal, there is no certainty to it,” board member Stu Watson of Hood River said Wednesday.

“We’re going to have some further discussions about it,” Watson said. “Some of the board members share my concern about this and the desire to find out how we came to this.”

Watson said he has requested a board workshop on the subject to be scheduled prior to its next scheduled meeting, Dec. 2.

According to Toda, “over the last three years expenses have steadily grown while revenues declined. This year the structural imbalance between the college’s ongoing expenditures and revenues is anticipated to be $1.6 million,” he said in a statement issued Wednesday.

“If no action is taken this figure is expected to grow to over $2 million in the next fiscal year. “Protecting the college’s financial stability now will allow it to continue this tradition of leadership and serving our region long into the future.

Toda said the plan is intended “to balance the college’s budget and maintain its long-term financial stability.

“There will be a lot of employee layoffs and restructuring,” Van Cleave said. “We’ll still have services in the county, and if it won’t be on the campus, it may be located somewhere else. We are still committed to Hood River,” Van Cleave said. “We are still going to be in Hood River, still going to have a campus, we just need to work through the structural financial deficit we are now working on,” he said. “We’re still committed to Hood River.”

State Rep. Mark Johnson said, “I’m very concerned about the prospect of having the campus closed even for a short time, because it can have a negative effect on our economy. It behooves all of us to work together to find supplemental sources and network at the state level to see we get a higher percentage than we would receive under the standard formula.” He said much more will be known when Gov. John Kitzhaber releases his proposed budget on about Dec. 1.

“I hope it alarms everyone in the community,” Johnson said.

“I’m very disappointed in this,” said Hood River’s John Brunk, president of the CGCC Foundation. “The foundation has a lot of support and we raise a lot of money to make the college affordable and the college is a real asset to the community. We’ve had some great milestones this year and there’s a lot of community support and the generosity.”

Van Cleave said that “as a district, students will still have access to The Dalles and on line courses, and we are exploring increased transportation for students (to The Dalles),” Van Cleave said.

The closure comes as part of what Van Cleave termed “a three-part plan to continue to seek funding.

“We are looking for additional partnerships and sources of revenue, but we are looking at permanent expense reductions.”

Johnson said he has talked with Toda over the past several weeks about Dr. Toda’s concerns, and the projected funding levels in the next biennium. Johnson said he also met with Ben Cannon, who heads the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

“It’s an open ended question. The higher education coordinating commission proposal is not adequate (for CGCC). We haven’t seen the governor’s proposed budget yet, and once that’s out we will have a target we can work on and try to leverage some funds.

Johnson noted that the higher education funding formula is based on enrollment numbers, with “no consideration for each school’s special circumstances or program needs.

“We have some colleges doing very well and others that operate on a smaller business model is much more susceptible to some of the (enrollment) irregularities.

In his statement, Toda said, “The college has managed the ongoing deficit in the past by drawing on reserves that were built during years of enrollment growth and higher levels of state funding. These operating reserves have now fallen from $3.1 million to an expected $500,000 by the end of this fiscal year; and the college is no longer in a financial position to wait for revenues to return to pre-recession levels,” he said.

“Immediate action is needed to preserve the lasting stability of Columbia Gorge Community College, protect its core mission areas, and maintain the flexibility to respond if new revenues become available.”

Toda continued: It is a reduction which can be quickly reversed when the financial position of the college improves. Make no mistake; the college is firmly dedicated to growing its physical presence in Hood River over the long-term.

Toda said “all options are on the table to close the budget gap, including pursuing new revenue. College leadership is in talks with various community partners to begin new customized training programs, leasing of college property, and creating partnerships to offer existing programs at a reduced financial burden to the college’s general fund.

“It is important not to lose sight of Columbia Gorge Community College’s mission and purpose during these tough budget times. The college has the second highest graduation rate in Oregon, pioneered the first wind technology program on the west coast, and developed a national model for rural health care education. I am certain the college’s best days are still ahead.”

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