EL RENO — Redlands Community College is not completely out of its $1.1 million financial hole, but it is making a rapid ascent and now has a clear vision on how to proceed, school leaders say.
In less than three months, college officials have whittled Redlands' $1.1 million in unpaid obligations down to less than $388,000, said Jack Bryant, who was named as the college's acting president June 27.
Redlands' regents and administrators took another major step last week when they presented the staff of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education with a revised budget for the current fiscal year. The new proposed budget is $545,147 less than one state regents deemed inadequate a few months earlier.
State regents are scheduled to consider the revised $10.6 million budget on Sept. 4, Bryant said. Documents presented to regents will show it as an $11.5 million budget because they include more than $850,000 in tuition waivers that do not involve money changing hands.
Redlands' financial woes shook the state's academic community last May when state regents were presented with a financial analysis that showed the college had more than $1.1 million in unpaid obligations, including some dating back more than six months.
Longtime Redlands President Larry Devane resigned less than a month later.
Bryant said the process of cutting the budget has been “tough” and “unfortunately did include some people.”
Nevertheless, Bryant said he is proud of the results.
“We did not cut any services or programs for students,” Bryant said, adding that was his top priority.
About the cuts
Some of the most visible cuts were revealed last month when Bryant announced Redlands would terminate its dairy goat auxiliary enterprise and that he would take on the duties of acting president while continuing to keep his old $87,552-a-year salary.
Bryant previously served as the college's vice president for workforce and economic development. Bryant said he asked regents to keep his salary the same during this time of crisis so the college could bank the $162,132 a year plus benefits that Devane had been earning.
Redlands officials chose not to renew a few employee contracts and not to fill a lot of vacant positions in order to cut expenses, Bryant said.
An assistant livestock judging coach, one full-time employee in the dairy goat operation, a business office employee and a career services employee lost their jobs when their positions were eliminated, he said. Three part-time employees also lost their jobs, including two in the dairy goat auxiliary enterprise, he said.
Bryant identified seven vacant full-time positions and seven part-time positions that were left open and said one full-time job was reduced to a part-time job after a person retired.
The full-time jobs left unfilled were for a humanities teacher, an assistant director of nursing, a graphic artist, a financial aide, a service manager, a coordinator of business services, and an emergency medical technician clinical coordinator, he said.
Bryant said remaining employees have been great about taking on extra duties to take up the slack, noting that four different employees agreed to take on various portions of the tasks performed by the career services employee after that position was eliminated.
Funding for portions of some positions also has been shifted to grants, he said.
“We take this very seriously, and we have made some extreme cuts to make this happen,” Bryant said.
Redlands was able to eliminate a big chunk of its $1.1 million debt by asking state regents to withhold more than $400,864 from the annual set-aside money the college receives for the Royse Ranch and Darlington Learning Center, which house agricultural programs.
Redlands officials told state regents to use that money to pay their office back for overdue master-lease bond payments.
That resulted in the college only receiving $66,686 in set-aside money for Royse Ranch and the Darlington Center this year. Finances will be tight, but college officials believe they can live with that this year, he said.
Bryant said a little more than $1 million in master lease bond obligations will come due this fiscal year and Redlands officials have asked state regents to withhold that money from the college's monthly allocations to keep the college from falling behind again.
Redlands has entered into structured payment plans with the five vendors that are owed the most money, he said. Those plans call for four of the vendors to be paid in full by the end of this fiscal year and the fifth to be paid back by the end of 2016, he said.
Redlands employees also are doing a lot of small things to cut expenses, like cutting down on the ability to make color copies on printers, encouraging the use of electronic communications rather than printed communications, reducing magazine subscriptions and dues to professional organizations, and reminding employees to turn out the lights when they leave and only use one paper towel to dry their hands rather than three or four, Bryant said.
Travel also is being reduced, but not for students, he said.
Redlands had 1,302 students enrolled as of Friday morning. After the cuts, it has 122 full-time employees, Bryant said.