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SCCC budget raises tuition by $180 annually

The Ammerman campus in Selden is one of

The Ammerman campus in Selden is one of the campuses of Suffolk County Community College. This is on Feb. 2, 2014. Credit: James Carbone

Suffolk County Community College trustees yesterday adopted a $215.3 million budget -- a 3.2 percent increase -- that will raise tuition for full-time local students by $180 annually.

In adopting that budget, trustees also asked county government to increase its share of college costs by nearly $2 million, a 5 percent increase. That hike would bring the county's share of school expenses to $41.6 million, or 23.13 percent.

County Executive Steve Bellone's budget aides had earlier directed the college to include only a 2 percent increase, or $795,000, in their spending plan.

To keep tuition from going higher, the trustees also voted to provide a one-time $2.3 million infusion from the college reserve fund, even though it would reduce the fund to $18.7 million, or 8.8 percent of college budget. Officials say it would put the college reserve fund below the 10 percent to 15 percent recommended by the middle states accrediting agency.

The proposal will raise tuition for local students by 4.1 percent, from $4,390 a year to $4,570 and 4.4 percent, from $183 to $191 per credit, for those who attend school part-time. It also means college students will be footing 50.6 percent of costs. When first formed, the cost of state community colleges were supposed to split into thirds among state, county and students.

The trustees' action comes after budget committee chairman Jim Morgo said he had a breakfast meeting with Bellone, who indicated the county might "do a little bit better" than his budget office directed. But he gave no commitment, Morgo added, because the county still faces revenue shortfalls.

Before making a decision, Morgo said, Bellone agreed to meet with students of modest means who would be most affected. He said the county executive also committed to work with school officials and county lawmakers on a long-range plan to give the college more certainty on funding. In the past seven years, the college received increases twice.

In return, Morgo said Bellone asked for increased communication and cooperation from the college. In recent months, the college and county became embroiled in a dispute over site selection for an economic development program. College president Shaun McKay and Joanne Mineri, Bellone's top economic development advisor, have recently renewed talks.

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said the county executive is "committed to give the college its first back-to-back increase in seven years," and will meet with students. He said Bellone will "try to do a bit better," but added that yesterday's sales tax numbers shows Suffolk is facing "continued fiscal stress." But he said the college's cooperative spirit is "very good for everybody."

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said he and Bellone met Wednesday at the college and called it a "good positive start," though he said he could not commit to this year's college request without a review.

College officials also say that the new state budget provides a $100 increase in operating aid, bringing the total for each full-time equivalent student to $2,597, or about $2 million extra for the college.

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