FA Budget Reserves Continue to Grow

December 2, 2019

The FA Council continues to set a conservative fiscal course for the FA that emphasizes building reserves and cautious spending. At our October meeting, the FAC reviewed and unanimously approved the Budget and Benefits Committee’s proposed budget. To see line items and totals, you can download the 2019-2020 budget PDF here.

 

Your Contributions At Work

As MiraCosta’s full-time faculty well know, we have been fortunate to develop and maintain a solid relationship with district leaders in recent years. This includes our Board of Trustees and administration. While many districts are plagued with Trustees who use their office as a stepping stone to a political career, for several years now our Trustees have worked collaboratively with the campus community to develop a mostly unified agenda that includes solid working conditions for employees. Thanks to your contributions, the FA has been in a position to let the community know about the need to continue to elect Trustees who care more for the interests of students and employees than political ambitions. In part, our budget reflects faculty support for our current elected officials by providing modest funding for political activities aimed at informing our community of the need to elect officials who put the college’s interests ahead of their own.

 

Addressing Challenges

By no means is this to suggest that this college is free of problems. In fact, while our current working conditions are solid, the FA leadership has heard many justifiable concerns from our members about district efforts to remove directors from the faculty ranks. Others have expressed concerns about an increasing divisiveness among faculty members and how discrimination in its various forms has negatively impacted working conditions and a sense of faculty unity. Beyond these immediate concerns, there seem to be a growing number of political forces intent on molding the community college to their liking—sometimes to the detriment of faculty and students. The growing influence of federal appointees and big business are evident in a number of recent initiatives. At the state level, the Chancellor’s Office is exerting an increasing level of influence over colleges—decisions leading to a vote of no confidence. At the local level, revolving-door leadership has had a destabilizing effect on most colleges, including our own. Consider that in the forty years between 1964 and 2004 MCC had just three college presidents; since 2004 we have had 6 presidents (3 interim) and with it, perhaps, more than our share of chaos.

 

FA Outreach

This is not to say that change, in and of itself, is bad for faculty. Rather, rapid, disorganized change resulting from the influence of multiple political groups (often at odds with one another) are leading to a degradation of our working conditions and the experience of students. To fight haphazard change, the FA has two major tools at our disposal: our collective bargaining agreement with the district and the funds we receive from all of you that comprise our budget. Your contributions allow the FA to promote and protect working conditions, and so we take the management of these contributions quite seriously. Our approach is cautious, but the FA Council has chosen not just to defend faculty working conditions, but to work for the betterment of our larger college community. This is why a portion of the budget provides funds to campus outreach. Most recently, the FA Council voted to contribute $1,500 to the MiraCosta Food Pantry’s “Scare Away the Hunger Campaign.” Last spring, the FA sponsored a social event intended as a force for uniting all faculty in the common cause of understanding the rights and responsibilities we have as faculty members. Based on the impressive attendance numbers and the positive feedback we received from attendees, we feel this was a small, but positive step forward in our efforts to promote unity among faculty. 

 

Importance of a Reserve

The budget also reflects the FA’s firm belief that we need to be prepared for a rainy day. During one of our first trips to a meeting of the California Community College Independents (CCCI), FA leaders were struck by the extraordinary expenses incurred by the faculty union at the Yosemite Community College District. Faculty in this medium-sized district endured a three-year contract negotiation that cost the union well over $100,000 per year in legal expenses. Though such expenses sound extraordinary, and the idea of a three-year labor dispute may be hard for MiraCostans to imagine, the truth is we’ve been fortunate and what Yosemite has experienced in those three years is more in keeping with the norm than our own experiences with one-semester contract negotiations. 

 

With that in mind, the 20-person FA Council established a goal of compiling a reserve of $500,000. The amount not only seemed appropriate to our leadership, but was a figure recommended by our legal counsel. As you can see from our most recent budget actuals, the FA spent less than budgeted in nearly every category during the 2018-19 fiscal year. This allowed us to add considerably more than we expected to our reserves. In fact, in just one fiscal year the FA added $58,671 to reserves out of total contributions of $78,711. Last year’s modest spending is in keeping with the FA’s past “rainy day” practices, and have allowed us to increase our reserves at a considerably faster rate than originally anticipated. 

 

As for our expenditures, the most substantial involved (and will continue to involve) legal fees and our participation in the CCCI. Our legal fees often center around assessments of negotiation strategies, the review of contract language (including MOUs), and advice on handling district investigations of FA members.

 

If you are interested in contributing to the FA (or increasing your contribution to the recommended level), please don’t hesitate to contact me, Scott Fallstrom, or any other member of the FA leadership, and we will help you in whatever way you like to make a contribution.

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