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April 25, 2011

Weatherford College president talks about legislative funding

WEATHERFORD — Like all others in the education system, Weatherford College is feeling the crunch of the budget debate, especially with a lot of unanswered questions from the Texas legislature. Last week, Weatherford College president Kevin Eaton sat down with the Democrat to give his thoughts on the matter.

“One of the toughest things is that we don’t have an exact number, so we’re guesstimating right now,” he said. “It’s pretty intensive [coming up with a budget]. We’ve looked at soft cuts, such as supplies, travel and equipment.

“But we have set aside $200,000 for emergency equipment.”

The community college has already taken precautionary steps toward meeting the budget possibilities that could be handed down from Austin, but so far, have managed to avoid letting any of its 312 full-time employees go.

“We don’t want staff cuts,” Eaton said. “We have had a freeze on hiring the last two months. We’re now trying to absorb retirees.”

At the most recent trustee meeting, the WC board voted to increase tuition by about 9 percent, which would generate a net income of $827,589.

Several trustees spoke out against raising taxes, voting instead of take care of the matter internally.

“I understand the board has the best interests, and we’re all doing everything we can,” Eaton said. “We’re doing everything we can to keep our family together. It’s a tough mix because I feel like I’ve got 312 people relying on me to make the best decision possible.”

Eaton said one of his biggest concerns revolves around health care talks, and a possible cuts in insurance as well as appropriations funding.

“The first year of the next biennium, we will be down $3 [million] to $4 million from where we started at the beginning of the last biennium,” he said. “If [the legislature] does the 50 percent cut they’re talking about, it will drop another $500,000 to $600,000 per year.”

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