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Trustees Approve COC Budget

Funds for additional faculty, new and expanded programs and services, an online degree program, a comprehensive winter intersession, 15 major construction and renovation projects, and room for more students are all in the works for College of the
Canyons this year, under the Santa Clarita Community College District's 2005-2006 budget, approved by the board of trustees during its budget meeting Wednesday night. 
 
The budget funds nearly $33.2 million in capital outlay projects from state, district and Measure C bond funds, including $20.7 million toward the construction of the Canyon Country Educational Center.
 
College spokesperson Sue Bozman said the $108.3 million total of all district budgetary funds is the largest in the district's history, as is the unrestricted general fund budget of more than $61.6 million.
 
Superintendent-president Dianne Van Hook said, "The increase of nearly $8 million in the unrestricted general fund over the 2004-2005 budget, allows the college to expand services and access for students, and to better serve the current needs of the community."
 
She added, "The capital outlay funds support our commitment to the goal of meeting the ever-changing educational needs of our growing community and building our capacity to continue to be able to do so in the future."
 
In addition to the Canyon Country Center, standouts among the 15 projects to be funded are construction of a business/high tech center that broke ground last spring, a science lab building that will begin construction this fall, and ground-breaking on the permanent university center that, when completed, will serve the community's needs for access to upper-division and graduate-level education.
 
Bozman said that during the past 17 years, student enrollment has increased from 4,823 to 14,233, creating tremendous pressure for more facilities.  To meet that need the district has obtained $192.8 million in construction funds since 1991, increasing the useable square feet of its facilities from about 200,000 to more than 350,000.  Construction during the next few years will add much more space in state-of-the-art facilities for students and the community.
 
Sharlene Coleal, vice president of business services, told the board that the state will support growth at the college of up to nearly 18 percent for the upcoming year, by far the highest growth rate compared to surrounding districts, which have been allotted the potential to grow an average of 3.6 percent.
        
"As a result of our higher growth target, we are better positioned to bring new funds to support us in providing greater access to our students," Van Hook said.  She added that "the incredible 436% growth of the college's budget during the last 15 years is the direct result of tremendous advocacy work by the board, administration, staff and student leaders, who convinced Sacramento to recognize the growth that is actually occurring in our valley and to allow the college to grow to meet that need."
         
Coleal explained that the administration budgeted very conservatively for 10.5 percent growth.  While more than $400,000 is currently allocated to fund newly-hired faculty positions, "We have set aside money to encourage faculty to create new curricula," Van Hook said, explaining that the budget is supportive of innovation, enabling the college to be responsible, flexible, and able to quickly add programs as new needs are identified.