State budget cuts impact DMACC

On January 10, Gov. Terry Branstad announced the possibility of cutting $100 million from the state budget and that translated down to the possibility of DMACC losing $1.5 million.  News coming out of the statehouse on January 23 settled that down to an agreed half-million dollar impact on DMACC.

The Des Moines Register reported on January 23, “The deal includes no spending cuts for K-12 education and Medicaid health care. It proposes a combination of $88.2 million in budget cuts for state agencies with $25 million in transfers from a variety of state funds.”

According to legislators and the Governor’s office, this was needed because of shortfalls in revenue.  Which in our interview with DMACC President Robert Denson he understood and said: “Clearly we saw last fall that there was a softening of the ag economy, and then kind of a trickle-down we saw that certain large manufacturers were slowing down a little bit.“

This interview was held before the final budget settlement, but for Denson, it still hurts. Denson said, “Since it’s mid-year, every dollar cut feels like two dollars because we’ve got to take the whole savings out over a year. Now it’s just over five months of time. And as I always say, our number one directive is don’t harm the student or don’t punish the student for this, because every one of our students has come here trying to make a better life.”

Denson went on to explain how the DMACC budget works.  Of the approximately $100 million it takes to run DMACC in an average year (fiscal years 2012-2016 were all just over 100 million each), the state provides approximately 35 percent.  Tuition is around 55 percent, local support through mostly property taxes is 8 percent,  and the federal government and other incomes to DMACC cover the rest.

“DMACC is efficient and inexpensive” Denson said.  He continued, “We’re not going to charge any more than we have to (for tuition).

“This decision, if this goes through, we’ll have to re-look at what we do with tuition. It would take in order to make up that $150,000 a year it’d be about an $8 tuition increase on top of what we were going to do. I don’t see that happening. I think we are going to find savings somewhere…I want to stay in that no more than $4 to $6 range. And again, this hasn’t gone to the board. We haven’t even put a pencil to it.”

DMACC’s issue, according to Denson, is more long term than short term, with adapting for the short term but looking into the overall financial plan.

Denson said, “When we were created in 1965 the plan was students would pay a third, the state would pay a third, and property taxes pay a third.”

When asked about construction on campus such as the major work to the ICI building and the Student Center being affected by the budget cuts Denson explained, “Not one additional dollar of tax revenue was raised to do it; it was out of the fund we’ve had in place since 1985. It will pay for itself and then some. We started out with the Y(MCA) and that didn’t work out for a lot of reasons, but we’re glad that it didn’t because this is going to be a great partnership with Ankeny Schools and a great community facility. “

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