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Attention Cuesta students: It is time for you to learn about “The Bucket Theory.” A name seemingly ripped from one of Dr. Ian Malcolm’s passionate sermons, the theory describes how state money gets put into your school (in fact, into community colleges in general), and therefore how state money doesn’t.

Dr. Gil Stork, your esteemed president, describes the system as resembling a bucket (which can get smaller). The first money thrown into the bucket consists of student fees, such as enrollment costs. The second thing thrown in (in December and April) is the portion of property taxes that are supposed to go to education. The rest of the money is thrown in by the state, which calculates what amount it should put in based upon what it projects the property taxes will be.

This projection involves the kind of area lived in, so SLO’s expensive housing can allow the state to assume that property tax revenues will be reasonably high, so state money doesn’t have to cover so much. Unfortunately, the housing market, not always in the most tip-top shape, doesn’t always bring in the money the state expects. When this happens, the state is supposed to cover education for the loss, but a few things stand in the way of easy coverage. K-12 has backup for this sort of thing, and universities are able to vote to get more coverage.

Community colleges, on the other hand, are left with none of this. Cuesta’s VP of administrative services, Toni Sommer, mentioned after a college budget meeting that she has received phone calls telling her that a coverage check was mailed—and short by a considerable amount. And the fish-like flopping about of budget numbers doesn’t end there.

Sommer described how the amount of FTEs (Full-Time Equivalent students) the state covered dropped from 100,000 to 93,000, leading Stork to state that Cuesta can no longer afford paying for unfunded FTEs, something it’s been doing for some time. In addition, budget cuts have abounded for Cuesta as of late, with $4.5 billion cut this year alone. This includes what’s referred to as “The February Surprise,” an unexpected budget cut with a name like a cafeteria-food nightmare come true.

So what lighter news is there about Cuesta’s budget? Well, last year, the number of students Cuesta took in prompted a state re-labeling, changing the school from a “small” college to a “medium college.” This means more state funding so long as cuts don’t drive away so many students as to lose the title as well. This is why Stork says it’s so vital that students attend the summer program, which will boost Cuesta’s numbers. Whatever happens, however, Stork promises Cuesta’s continued quality. ∆

Intern Christopher White-Sanborn compiled this week’s Cougars and Mustangs. Send your collegiate news to cougarsandmustangs@newtimesslo.com.

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