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SCCC presses Suffolk County lawmakers for more money

Sagtikos Arts and Science Center at Suffolk County

Sagtikos Arts and Science Center at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood is seen in this photo from May 14, 2015.

Suffolk County Community College officials Tuesday pressed county lawmakers to add nearly $1 million in funding to the school's proposed $215 million budget to avoid an extra tuition hike.

But members of the legislature's education committee questioned SCCC officials about large raises for top administrators, spending on advertising and estimates that the college reserve fund has enough money to keep tuition down.

County Executive Steve Bellone's proposed budget would increase the county's share of college funding by 2.51 percent, or $1 million.

SCCC president Shaun McKay requested a 5 percent increase, in an effort to avoid increasing a planned tuition hike of $180 for full-time students by another $50 this fall. Full-time resident student tuition is $4,390 a year.

He said the county share of college funding under Bellone's proposal would drop from 23.9 percent to 22.7 percent and students would pay 51.1 percent, with the state picking up the rest. Originally, the state, county and students were envisioned to pay one-third each.

"We can't cut our way out of this -- we've got to grow our way out of it," by offering new programs that train students in skills such as cybersecurity, McKay said.

Legis. Lou D'Amaro (D-North Babylon) questioned raises given to the college's top 23 administrators, which ranged from 9 percent to 18 percent.

He noted that associate academic vice president John Lombardo had received a 17 percent annual raise to $182,000 while the pay of Louis Petrizzo, the college general counsel, rose by 18.5 percent to $188,700 a year.McKay said several administrators had taken on extra duties, and that other high-level posts had been vacant.

He said Petrizzo took over duties normally done by a $211,000-a-year executive vice president, whose job was left unfilled.Republican Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) asked if the school needed to spend $756,000 a year for advertising to recruit students.

McKay said the college needs to get the message across that an SCCC education will allow them to move on to four-year schools while saving money. "They hear that message and it resonates," he said.

The Bellone administration says the college reserve fund will have $23 million by the end of August. Bellone's budget calls for the college to use $1 million from reserves to avoid the extra tuition hike.

The college already plans to use $2.3 million in reserve money next year. SCCC officials said that will lower the fund to $18.7 million or 8.1 percent of the college budget, which is lower than the 10 percent to 15 percent its accrediting agency recommends.

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said Bellone's 2.51 percent increase is enough to fund the budget. Given the college has underestimated the reserves in the past, Schneider said, "When we're looking at adding to the burden on taxpayers or students, it is entirely prudent to use the reserve fund."

The full county legislature is expected take action on the college budget at next week's meeting.

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