MASON CITY | David Buettner, interim president at North Iowa Area Community College, has proposed nearly $900,000 in budget cuts because of declining enrollment.

Buettner said the President’s Council, which consists of those in leadership positions throughout the college, helped him develop the cost-saving proposals, which include eliminating five or six NIACC positions.

Those positions are in admissions, athletics, the business office, public relations and other areas at the college.

Buettner said some of those positions are currently vacant, noting several people decided to retire, partly because college officials were considering cutting their positions.

He also said cutting a position doesn’t always mean the person currently in that position will no longer be working at NIACC.

In some cases, such as with the Career Center coordinator position which is being eliminated, the person holding that post will be transferred to another position.

Buettner noted although the Career Center coordinator position is being eliminated, the Career Center will remain open.

In total, “A couple of people will probably be laid off,” Buettner said.

Another proposal is to improve bad debt collections. Buettner estimates the college will save $125,000 this fiscal year by doing this.

He said students are offered payment plans on their tuition, meaning they can pay it in increments.

In the past, “We have been very lax and understanding” when students couldn’t make the payments, Buettner said. However, “We can’t afford that,” he said.

Other proposed cost-saving measures include:

• Reducing the out-of-state travel budget to essential travel only.

• Temporarily increasing employee contributions to health insurance by 2 percent.

• Reducing the number of sections for courses.

• Making $58,264 in non-personnel cuts to the athletic budget. Buettner said some of the individual cuts are no more than a few hundred dollars and no athletic programs will be eliminated.

• Eliminating the Enrich program. The college used to receive a grant for this program, aimed at maximizing student achievement, but that funding is no longer available.

Buettner said NIACC has other programs to help students in the Enrich program.

• Taking a year off from the CLIC and LINC professional development opportunities for employees.

Buettner noted the college will save $59,300 this fiscal year because the Iowa Legislature has appropriated funds for the Adult Basic Education and GED programs that the college had been funding.

Buettner also is proposing between-term “mini-sessions” and other credit hour-generating offerings at the college to try to bring in some additional revenue. He estimated the college could generate $10,000 this fiscal year through those offerings.

Buettner said adjustments had to be made in the budget because of declining enrollment.

“We have had some disappointment there,” he said.

The number of students attending NIACC this fall is down 2 percent, but the key number is the 4.5 percent decrease in the overall number of credit hours, according to Buettner. He said fewer credit hours is what really drives down revenue.

Buettner said NIACC is still getting the same share of the market when it comes to attracting recent high school graduates, but the market is smaller than it used to be because high school enrollments in the area are decreasing due to changing demographics.

He said another reason NIACC’s enrollment is decreasing is because the non-traditional students who enrolled a few years ago after losing their jobs are now back to work due to the economic recovery.

Enrollment “is not falling off a cliff,” but adjustments still need to be made so the college can stay solvent and not have to rely on reserve funds, Buettner said.

He said NIACC employees have been informed of the proposed budget adjustments and have been asked to provide input. They have until around Oct. 8 to do so.

Some of the proposals do not require board approval. Buettner said the board could take action at its next regular meeting on Oct. 17 on the rest of the proposals.

Most proposals will go into effect as soon as they are approved, but a few will not be effective until the first of the year.

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