By Sean Chase
On June 21, the Grand Rapids Community College board of trustees unanimously adopted a $115.4 million budget for the 21-22 school year that features waiving online course fees and a tuition freeze.
“As we move closer to closing our fiscal year, we continue to be very pleased,” said Lisa Freiburger, GRCC’s Vice President for Finance and Administration. “Our budget to actual variance is positive, and we will close the year with a significantly positive variance. As we have discussed before, a lot of that is due to the federal stimulus dollars that are coming through this fiscal year, and will move into next fiscal year as well.”
In March, the trustees met to work out the details of the tuition freeze, allowing for a discussionless approval on Monday. The budget includes continuing to waive online course fees and single swipe parking, meaning a student will only pay $3.50 per day at GRCC’s parking ramps regardless of exits, which have been in place since the Winter 2021 semester.
Along with approving the budget, the trustees approved a compensation package to provide an increase in funding for administrative, technical, professional and administrative support employees.
“Those actual increases will vary for zero up to 2.5% based on employee performance, as outlined in evaluation, current salary and what coretile their salary falls in,” Freiburger said. “The 2.5% pool would cover approximately 212 eligible employees, and would be approximately $500,000, which includes the FICA and retirement associated with those salary dollars.”
As part of the budget, the board approved a contract extension for Pink, which is usually reviewed every three years. However, Pink declined a raise in 2020, causing the board to revisit this topic on Monday. Board members approved increasing the president’s base pay by 6.5% from $210,000 to $223,707 and adding $5,000 to Pink’s yearly tax-sheltered annuity, increasing it from $12,500 to $17,500. As well as increasing the contribution for receiving an annual review of effective or highly effective from $5,000 to $13,500.
Following the budget approval, GRCC President Bill Pink spoke to the board about a 2.5% salary increase for exempt contract employees.
“What this is, it entails our executive team, vice presidents, my team, and in keeping with that Meet and Confer of 2.5, especially given the great work, over this last year of pandemic, that this leadership team has done, alongside our campus,” Pink said he “wanted to keep that in lockstep there, as a 2.5% increase as well.”
In other news, the GRCC board of trustees unanimously approved a new Michigan New Jobs Training Program agreement with Kent Utilities LLC. Freiburger presented the resolution to the board, asking for approval on the training agreement between the college and Kent Utilities, as well as a revenue bond to move forward with training.
“The resolution is standard, and is very consistent with what you have reviewed and approved in the past,” Freiburger said, during Monday’s meeting.
Based in Rockford, Kent Utilities LLC, a division of Kent Power, works on power lines and substations. They’re looking to add up to 133 new jobs, through the partnership with GRCC.
During the meeting, the board voted to approve the annual millage levy resolution, which after a Headlee rollback has fallen from 1.9 mills to 1.7307 mills. This happens when local governments are forced to rollback millage due to the annual growth on existing property exceeding the rate of inflation.
“That will, based on our budgeted projections, bring in approximately $46.3 million,” Freiburger said. “9.7 of which goes into our plant fund to cover outstanding debt obligations. The remaining 36.6, into our general fund to cover standard general fund operations.”
Trustee Kathleen Bruinsma questioned the possibility of a “Headlee override,” causing Trustee Kenyatta Brame to ask about the success of other institutions in the override process. While overrides have been successful at a few community colleges, Freiburger indicated GRCC hasn’t attempted this process during her tenure.
Additionally, the board approved Bruinsma as the board’s representative to the Michigan Community College Association, with Trustee Brandy Lovelady-Mitchell being nominated as the alternate representative.
The trustees appointed Salvador Lopez to the open seat on the board. The seat was previously filled by Kathy Crosby, who stepped down to focus on health concerns.
Before wrapping up, the trustees approved a blanket purchase order consisting of 31 separate purchases, ranging from $30,000 for advertising services to $130,240 for parking ramp cleaning services.
In addition to the blanket purchase order, the board voted to unanimously approve four other purchases over $100,000, including $135,656 to provide digital conversion of student records, $129,299.50 for Carriage House renovations, $154,000 to provide academic planning systems and $552,325 for the repairs and restoration of the Lyon parking ramp.
The board approved their schedule for the 21-22 school year. There will not be a July meeting, as the trustees are set to reconvene on Aug. 16.