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Legislature approves $182M budget for Nassau Community College

On-campus classes at Nassau Community College in Garden

On-campus classes at Nassau Community College in Garden City have been suspended since March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County legislators on Monday unanimously approved Nassau Community College's $182 million budget for the 2012-22 fiscal year, raising student tuition as the school strives to reopen with an unknown number of in-person classes in the fall semester. 

The budget cuts spending by 10 percent in anticipation of a $4 million loss of revenue from state aid and deeper cuts expected in 2021. The new budget cuts salaries and benefits, contractual agreements, general expenses and utilities. 

Tuition is to increase by $100 a semester. 

Nassau Community College President Jermaine F. Williams told lawmakers during testimony that he expected to know how many courses would be offered on campus within the next seven days, awaiting guidance from the state.

“We definitely will have a thriving campus in some form, we are just trying to figure out the number of classes,” Williams said. 

NCC, with about 20,000 students, is the largest single-campus community college in the state system. The campus in East Garden City is 225 acres and has approximately 50 buildings.

The state, county and student tuition is supposed to equally fund its operating budget, however, in recent years the school has relied more heavily on tuition dollars. Like all other institutions, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the school to conduct online courses exclusively during the statewide shutdown.

William told legislators he expected the cuts to state aid to be deeper next year, about 20 to 25 percent. Nassau County contributes about $52 million to the college through property taxes, which would not change.

While Williams and college officials projected a decline in enrollment due to the pandemic, legislators questioned whether the economic fallout — job losses forcing families to rethink their budgets — would work in NCC's favor. 

Legis. Denise Ford, a Long Beach Democrat who caucuses with Republicans, asked: “Do you foresee there would be an uptick in enrollment at NCC because they can’t afford to go away to a four-year college?”

“That is a possibility we are aggressively embracing,” Williams said.

Earlier in the budget process, majority Republicans on the legislature threatened to withhold their votes for NCC's budget because parents and faculty members were upset over the possible elimination of academic and social support programs for students on the autism spectrum. The programs served about 40 students. 

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said he was "very happy" to see the programs had been restored. 

“Nassau County prides itself on being a place that is welcoming and provides opportunity for everyone to excel, and these programs do exactly that. I am thankful for the professors and parents who raised awareness about the programs," Nicolello said. "Their tireless advocacy led to the restoration."

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said NCC's budget "is reflective of the unprecedented economic challenges that so many institutions are grappling with amidst the COVID-19 pandemic." 

Also on Monday, lawmakers approved a request from Nassau County Executive Laura Curran's office to earmark $60 million in federal funding the county received through the CARES Act to provide emergency funding to the county departments responding to the pandemic for general expenses, contractual services, equipment, wages and fringe benefits.

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