HFCC may seek millage increase to help with deficit

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — Henry Ford Community College officials are exploring many different avenues in their attempts to generate more revenue for the college, including asking Dearborn Public Schools voters for a millage increase in November.

The ballot proposal, introduced at the June 17 Board of Trustees meeting, calls for 4 mills, with 1 mill of that being new taxes that would generate $3.3 million for the college. The 1 mill would be a tax increase of $1 per $1,000 of taxable value of a house. A homeowner with a house with a taxable value of $100,000 will see a $100 increase in taxes.

The other 3 mills will be two renewals that expire in December 2014. One part is a 2.5 mill levy that is renewable every 10 years, and the other is a .5 mill levy that is renewable every five years. The two levies generate $10 million annually for the college.

HFCC President Stan Jensen said the money would help to make up for revenue that the college has lost since 2008 due to declining property values, declining state aid money and lower enrollments

“This doesn’t get us back to 2008 levels, but it does help the college meet its needs, support our people and the allow us to keep supporting the community,” Jensen said.

The trustees said they will continue to discuss the possible millage increase. The next HFCC meeting is July 15.

The trustees have laid off administrators, and are considering offering an amnesty program for previous students with delinquent accounts.

All are part of the ongoing effort to generate more cash flow for the college, which is facing a $6.5 million budget shortfall next year. The actual shortfall is $16.6 million, but through a combinations of cuts, re-configuring of programs and revenue increases such as tuition hikes the college can take $10.17 million from that total.

At the meeting it was announced that 12 administrators had been laid off and two more will be laid off soon. Further employees may be laid off in the coming weeks as officials try to cut costs and streamline programs.

Jensen said although the college would prefer to not have to release employees, tough decisions have to be made due to the financial circumstances the college is in.

“This (the layoffs) has been considered really carefully,” Jensen said. “We are not letting anybody go with any cavalier attitude or without thinking about it a lot. It is painful and it is not a fun thing to go through, but then again it’s not anyone’s desire to go bankrupt so we do want to take action.”

An amnesty program also was introduced at the meeting. In this proposed program, former students who owe the college money
for tuition or fees from past semesters would be given an opportunity to pay back the money at a reduced rate. The proposed
window of the program would be between July 15 and Aug. 14. The Fall 2013 semester begins on Aug. 22.

Board Treasurer James Schoolmaster said he didn’t like that the program didn’t have any guidelines or standards in its original language. He added that he had just recently received the notice of it and hadn’t been given time to go through it.

Board Trustee Aimee Schoelles said the details of the amnesty program could be worked out at the upcoming HFCC Finance Committee meeting on July 3, and that the longer the college waited to start the program the less opportunity the students would have to try to get back into the school.

Jensen said it was important to make a decision on the program soon.
“If we don’t actualize it soon, then it closes the window for students,” Jensen said, “because the end of it is August 14 and we’d like them to be able to pay off their bill so they can register for fall classes.”

The board eventually re-worded the proposal to say that the Finance Committee would determine the final details of the program at the July 3 meeting.

Jensen added that he was confident that the college can make the necessary adjustments to repair their finances.

“We want to get a budget that is sustainable and one that responds to where we are,” Jensen said. “But it’ll take all of us working together.”

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.