LUMBERTON — Robeson Community College has less than $4,200 to pay bills for maintenance and operating costs through June 30, the college’s vice president of Business Services told RCC trustees Thursday.
“I’ve paid the bills that need to be paid by the end of the month and have only $4,169 left,” Tami George said. “And I still have $53,695.51 worth of bills sitting on my desk now.”
Although the college is almost broke, President Charles Chrestman said there are no immediate plans to close down the school for any period of time. He is confident the county Board of Commissioners will come through.
“We’ve had a good working relationship with the county,” Chrestman said. “These gentleman are not going to let anything like that happen.”
The trustees met Thursday in special session to consider what action to take as a result of no immediate response from the the commissioners on the college’s request Monday night for an additional $341,000 allocation so the school can pay its bills for May and June.
“Talk to your commissioners,” George Regan, chairman of the trustees, told his board. “We have to make sure the commissioners understand the problem we are having here … . We’ve cut everything we can. We’ve done everything but shut off the lights … . We’ve stretched the rubber band and this year it has popped.”
Regan emphasized that during the past three years the commissioners have not allocated RCC enough to cover the school’s costs for maintenance and operations, forcing the college to ask for additional funding to meet end-of-fiscal-year expenses.
On Thursday, Regan said that Noah Woods, chairman of the county board, has said his board will address RCC’s request when it meets Thursday for a budget work session. Woods, who also is an RCC trustee, was not present at Thursday’s meeting.
For each of the past three fiscal years, the county has allocated RCC $1.9 million for operations and maintenance. Money has also been allocated for roof repairs, with this year that amount totaling $225,000.
Chrestman said that the additional expenses this year have resulted from repairs to aging HVAC systems and high energy costs. Energy costs, he said, have increased about 10 percent.
According to the county’s proposed budget for 2012-13, RCC’s funding for operations and maintenance would be increased to $2 million, with funding for capital projects being increased to $300,000.
Chrestman said he is concerned that next year’s $2 million county allocation will not meet operations and maintenance expenses for the entire year. He said the college is asking the county for a $2,328,919 appropriation.
“Tami George is one of the finest finance officers I have ever worked with,” Chrestman said. “Her cost estimates are extremely accurate. She is consistently within 2 to 3 percent.”
The president acknowledged that if there is a continuing shortfall it would be his “responsibility as president” to take cost-saving actions that could go as far as closing the school down for certain periods of time.
Chrestman added that RCC only requests from the county the amount that will be needed to actually fund operations and maintenance costs. There is no padding of the budget, he said.
George told The Robesonian that this year’s shortage is the “worst” she has ever seen.
“Energy costs are killing us,” she said. “All of our increases are based on energy.”
George said that any immediate assistance the commissioners can provide would help.
“The more money they can give us now will reduce the total amount we will be in the hole at the beginning of the next fiscal year,” she said.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or email@example.com