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BC3 approves next year’s budget

Butler County Community College
Board raises tuition, fees by $5 each per credit, announces Mercer County campus up for sale

UNION TWP, Lawrence County — Butler County Community College’s board of trustees approved a $29,842,500 operating budget with a $2.3 million deficit for 2024-25 at a meeting Wednesday, June 19.

Approval of BC3’s budget comes as the college — along with others in Pennsylvania — awaits the state’s final budget, which could potentially bring in more revenue.

BC3’s 2024-25 budget includes a 4% increase in state funds, a $369,375 increase from last year; the college asked for 8%. Additional revenue from the state could further shrink the deficit, Jim Hrabosky, vice president for administration and finance, said after the meeting, but potential increases to state funds are uncertain. Like other colleges and school districts around the state, BC3 must pass its own budget before waiting on the state’s.

“What’s in play the most this year is what we’re projecting for a state appropriation,” Hrabosky said. “We have about $9 million. That’s a 4% increase from last year. We’re asking for 8%. If that 8% would be approved, then that would create a positive variance here that would be good news — it would bring in additional revenue.

“Between increased enrollment or a potential increase to the state base, those are two areas that we could see additional revenue,” he said.

To cover part of the projected deficit of $2.3 million, the college will dip into its fund balance. Previously, Hrabosky planned a “worst case scenario” deficit of about $2.9 million.

Last year, the school’s deficit was $1.6 million, Hrabosky said in a previous interview. Retiring president Nick Neupauer previously said in April that with financial constraints enacted by the college, he anticipates the budget gap to be closed in two years.

BC3’s deficit can be attributed to a number of factors, including a 26% drop in enrollment following the COVID-19 pandemic, unpaid student tuition and rising health insurance costs, according to previous board discussions.

In July, health insurance costs will increase by 9%, according to BC3 representatives. Health insurance costs increased by 14% last July.

Additionally, the college has experienced a 37% decline in credit enrollment since 2014.

Salaries and wages, which make up over half the budget, are projected to decrease from last year by almost 2%, or $325,000, due to unfilled positions and retirements. BC3’s second largest expense comes from staff benefits, which have increased by $74,000, or 1%.

Tuition and fees make up 44.17% of revenue, followed by state funds at nearly 40%.

Hrabosky noted that while some jobs have remained unfilled, the college has not halted pay raises. On Wednesday afternoon, trustees also approved wage increases of up to 3% for administrators, as well as professional and technical employees, based on performance review.

Tuition and fee increase

To address the deficit as well as rising costs, trustees also approved an increase to tuition and comprehensive fees of $10 more per credit.

Butler County residents will be charged a rate of $5 more per credit for tuition and $5 more per credit for comprehensive fees, for a total of $197 a credit. The total price reflects the cost of tuition and an additional comprehensive fee.

The $10 increase per credit is also applied to Pennsylvania students outside of Butler County and out-of-state residents, who will pay a total of $300 per credit and $400 per credit, respectively.

The fee increases will add about $400,000-$500,000 in revenue, Hrabosky said, while keeping with the college’s mission of affordability.

“We’re trying to pay close attention to price increases, because this is a price increase to our students,” he said. “We try to find a balance between addressing increasing costs and our deficit but not overcharging our students.”

“We have built into our strategic plan that we want to be among the five lowest (charging) community colleges in the state in terms of our pricing,” Hrabosky said. “Even with this projected increase, we still meet that benchmark.”

BC3’s Mercer County campus for sale

Tuesday afternoon, interim president Megan Coval also announced that BC3’s campus in the LindenPointe business park in Mercer County was put up for sale June 1.

“We were evaluating enrollments at that location … similar to other institutions of higher learning, we’ve been experiencing enrollment losses,” Coval said after the meeting. “That one has suffered in terms of enrollment. Just making the evaluation of the building and the expense of the building to the college in terms of comparing that to the revenue, (a sale) just made sense for that particular location.”

“It doesn’t mean that we won’t have a future in Mercer County,” she said.

Earlier, Coval told the board and administrators present at the meeting that the sale listing would not affect operations on campus; students at LindenPointe will continue scheduling and taking classes this fall “as normal.”

“We’re committed to having our classes there so our students know that there’s still a place to go and that they can work on their scheduling,” she said. “Because we’re an institution of higher education, everything is really based on a semester to semester timeline, versus kind of a calendar year or month to month timeline.”

“Ideally, whenever the building sells, hopefully a few months from then we can figure out where we’ll be for the next semester for our students,” she said.

The possibility of co-locating on Penn State Shenango’s campus is still an option that is under discussion, Coval said.

The campus is listed for sale at $3.1 million, according to the property listing on Colliers, a commercial real estate company.

This story was updated at 12:25 p.m. to reflect that Butler County Community College’s operating budget of $29,842,500 includes a projected deficit of $2.3 million that will be covered by the college’s fund balance. A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to college’s expenditures as the shortfall in the budget.

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