City College shortfall imperils campuses

Some days it feels like I’m writing the same story again and again, just changing up the characters. It’s usually some variation of a scarcity of funding, a scramble to find a solution, and the conflict that comes with it.

This time, City College of San Francisco — one of the largest community colleges in the country with 90,000 full- and part-time students — has become the latest player in our grand scarcity epic.

Like so many other public institutions, CCSF faces a major budget shortfall of $14 million. On top of that, the college’s budget reserve is sitting at $3 million —  a paltry sum considering their operating budget is about $200 million.

In an effort to manage this crisis, the college cut nearly 100 summer classes, or 60 percent of the summer class offerings.

But guess what? Cutting those classes put about $1 million in state money at risk, which kind of defeats the purpose of making cuts to save the budget. Trimming services that generate income — and, in doing so, jeopardizing outside money you rely on ($10 million, no less) — seems supremely unwise.

Thankfully, City College trustees seem to understand that now.  Thursday night, they voted 4-to-1 to do a complete financial review of their whole system in an effort to find other ways to cut their deficit.

Interim Chancellor Pamila Fisher noted the gravity of the situation, admitting they may need to close one or more of the college’s 12 campuses:

“It’s a very legitimate question for us to be considering.”

In some cases, that might not be a bad thing. To wit, two City College campuses — in Chinatown and Downtown — are only eight-tenths of a mile apart.

But another question is, can we trust these people to fix the problem? Some of these same trustees earlier this year skipped meetings and still took a paycheck for them — a violation of the law. When the HuffPost reported the story in February, seven board members had been absent a total of 31 times over 18 months.

And apparently, the board is about to beg for help from the state’s Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team. Probably not the best way to signal that they’ve got this mess under control.