County could contribute funding to local community college

(Photo Source: Tompkins Cortland Community College).

The Cortland County Finance and Administration Committee unanimously approved Tuesday to recommend a contribution close to $1.85 million to Tompkins Cortland Community College’s 2022-2023 budget.

The total operating budget of the community college is $33.6 million and the county’s contribution will be made in four installments starting next year, according to a resolution presented by the County Legislature. 

Legislative Minority Leader Beau Harbin (D-LD-2) told The Cortland Voice Wednesday both the counties of Cortland and Tompkins sponsor the local community college.

“Together though every year Cortland and Tompkins support (Tompkins Cortland Community College’s) budget as the sponsoring counties,” he said. “This is based on the formula that accounts for the differences in size of population between Cortland and Tompkins to help ensure a fair support from each.” 

Harbin said he supported the contribution, highlighting some of the college’s contributions to the community. 

“Tompkins Cortland Community College has recently piloted, with our support, a new workforce development program to help train people in new careers as well. This is our local community college who helps to benefit all of our community,” he said. “I appreciate the college’s leadership team in working to expand enrollment from those beyond Cortland and Tompkins, as well as continuing to support programs that help our kids and our residents here.”

William Talbot, the college’s vice president of finance and administration, presented an overview of the budget to the committee on Tuesday. He highlighted the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

“We are still focusing on trying to restructure job opportunities and wages to align and give us the greatest impact on enrollment,” Talbot said. He noted that the college is also working on targeting enrollment through marketing, advertisements, and the creation of new programs. “Enrollment as marketing advertising, new programs. Enrollments are on the rise for the first time in probably a decade. We are looking at a 3 percent increase.”

Despite getting on track with enrollment, Talbot admitted tuition is a pretty small piece of the college’s revenues. Talbot also lamented the loss of some state funding, noting the state is not funding the college to the degree they were doing so before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. He added the college lost out on approximately $700,000 in state funding.

College officials are looking at some grants and other funding opportunities to shore up those losses.

“It is important that the college has been proactive in trying to address challenges as they come up,” he said. “We have made hard decisions.” 

Talbot also spoke about a couple of contingency accounts the college is going to draw on in case of a “rainy day.” Other factors such as the bleak economic forecast in the near future are not helping, Talbot said.

“We have a reasonable plan for next year and we are not asking for the county to increase the amount you contribute to us this next budget year,” he told legislators. “The work on the capital side and the funding provided for workforce development are so well appreciated. We will try to work through the natural increases that have occurred. I cannot guarantee that (we will not ask for added funding) next year.”

At the meeting, newly appointed Tompkins Cortland Community College president Amy Kremenek addressed legislators.

“I have long admired the work of (Tompkins Cortland Community College), certainly it is a strong institution with a great history of innovation, entrepreneurship and academic excellence,” she said. “Community colleges across the state have been hit with enrollment challenges and we have been working really hard to address them.”

The County Legislature will vote on contributing to the college’s budget on June 23.