Seven Vie For Mpc Board
Community college can't spend its millions on gaping budget hole.
Thursday, October 23, 2003
Monterey Peninsula College has a strange problem. In an era when there''s not much extra cash flying around, the local community college has a huge pile of money to spend, $145 million to be exact. The problem is that the money, generated from a bond passed in November 2002, must be spent on building and improving facilities, at a time when the state fiscal crisis forces deep and long cuts into what goes on inside those buildings.
On Nov. 4, area voters will decide which three of seven candidates will sit on the Board of Trustees, a body that must decide essentially two things: how to spend the $145 million on facilities over the next 30 years, and how to keep students in them.
In order to cover its gaping budget deficit, the state has raised student fees from $11 a unit to $18 a unit, all of which goes to Sacramento and not necessarily back to the school.
Last year, MPC had to cut $1 million out of its budget and cut sections, pushing students into larger classes and leaving fewer schedule choices.
The first $40 million of the "brick and mortar" bond money is available, but the school needs to complete an assessment of its facilities first.
Seven candidates have stepped forward to run for three positions on the board that will ultimately decide how to spend the money. This will create a new majority on the board.
Seeking seats are Jan Knippers Black, a professor at the Monterey Institute of International Studies; Loren Steck, a psychologist who works in television and has been involved in the UC-Santa Cruz Foundation for years; R. Lynn Davis, a former lawyer and president of the MPC Foundation; Charlie Page, a heavily endorsed former member of the Monterey City Council and current MPC Foundation trustee; Kathrina Ognyanovich, former longtime Peninsula school district trustee and former MPC trustee; Jackie Gonzales, a community volunteer and board member of the local Girl Scouts; and Philip Pennington, a security officer. (More information about the candidates can be found at www.smartvoter.org.)
Jan Knippers Black, who maintains a steady involvement in state Democratic politics, wants to up the pressure on the state to keep institutions like MPC across California afloat.
"It affects the community when students don''t get the education they need," she says.
Black wants to see the construction bond money used for progressive projects. "As long as you''re renovating and reconstructing, why not use the latest in green technology," she says. "It usually saves money anyway."
Loren Steck, who through his work at UCSC knows quite a bit about the state education system, proposes voluntary early retirement should the school be forced to make employee cutbacks. "You can''t use [the bond money] for salaries, which is what you''d really like to do," Steck says.
Charlie Page started the MPC Foundation with his late wife and he says the school needs a funding boost now more than ever. He says community colleges need a strong lobbying effort in Sacramento.
"I don''t have any easy answers," he says. "If anyone tells you there are easy answers to running a community college these days, don''t trust them."
There are no easy answers. As candidate R. Lynn Davis says, "We have to figure out how to keep the college operating."
Candidate Jackie Gonzales did not attend a forum on Oct. 16 but enjoys endorsements from Mayor Jerry Smith of Seaside and Marina Mayor Ila Mettee-McCutchon. Philip Pennington could not be contacted at press time. Kathrina Ognyanovich cites 19 years of community involvement and school board participation. She counts among her endorsers water district commissioner and environmental attorney Zan Henson, as well as Seaside Highlands developer Danny Bakewell, Jr.