Mid-Shore counties voted Monday night to provide level funding to Chesapeake College for the next fiscal year.
The college initially had sought a 3 percent increase over this year’s funding, but the COVID-19 pandemic has county governments tightening belts in anticipation of lower revenues.
Clifford Coppersmith, Chesapeake College’s president, said the proposed budget reflected the college’s strategic plan and touched briefly on effects of the pandemic.
“We are doing everything we can to maintain the college and our workforce,” Coppersmith said.
With the campus closed for social distancing, the college moved all instruction online that could be, he said, and plans for summer courses to be online as well.
The college also is preparing for distance learning for the fall semester if required.
Coppersmith said the college had been working on plans to improve its workforce education and training programs and would be ready with those courses when the economy is ready to go again.
In its initial budget process before the pandemic, the college had called for a tuition increase of $3 per credit hour, but that increase has been rescinded, he said.
Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties allocated a total of $6.5 million to the college for Fiscal Year 2020, which ends June 30. Four of the five counties voted unanimously Monday night to provide the same funding for next year; Dorchester County did not have a quorum on the call.
The total funding from the Mid-Shore counties is divvied up based on the ratio of student enrollment. If Chesapeake College students, for example, came equally from each county, the counties each would fund 20% of the total $6.5 million.
Talbot County Council President Corey Pack said Talbot had budgeted about $1.65 million for the college for next year. The county also has put about $50,000 for the college in its contingency fund, representing the 3 percent increase the college had sought.
If the economy and tax revenues are better than expected, the county council could vote to allocate that money to the college.
Caroline County officials said that county would be allocating about $7,000 more than last year due to changes in the enrollment ratio.
Queen Anne’s County Commission President Jim Moran said that county’s share would be about $1.88 million.
Queen Anne’s was the only county to support the 3 percent increase, with Moran noting the county would be paying less next year as a result of enrollment changes.
Kent and Talbot county officials said those counties were planning on flat county budgets for FY21 as well,
“We’ve done that with all our departments,” Kent County Commissioner Ron Fithian said in the conference call. “We’re letting everybody know it will be the same as last year.”
The counties also unanimously approved the college’s total operating budget of about $23.1 million by category and nearly $400,000 from the counties for maintenance and repair costs.
Tina Jones, the college’s chief financial officer, said the counties provide about a third of the college’s total budget with other sources, including tuition, providing the remainder.
With a bad economy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, college officials said Chesapeake could see increased enrollment, which means additional revenue from tuition, but also higher instructional costs.
Approving the total budget by category allows the college to make decisions based on enrollment, revenues, and expenses without having to return to the five counties for approval, Jones said.