Fearing that Northern Virginia Community College's already-trimmed operating budget may be further cut this year in Richmond, college officials and students sponsored a coffee and donut lobbying session last week with Northern Virginia legislators.
Of the nine state representatives who attended, few were very optimistic about reinstating the 5 per cent Gov. Mills Godwin took out of the college's current $17.83 million budget. The governor has told the Virginia Community College System that he may make an additional 2.5 per cent cut in this year's budget and next year's unless the state raises additional revenue.
NVCC currently serves 26,557 students at five campuses in Northern Virginia.
"The governor is mandated to balance the budget," said Delegate James M. Thomas, (D-Fairfax), majority leader of the House of Delegates. "Cuts of some magnitude are necessary."
Thomas said he wanted to examine year-end figures more closely before proposing specific ways to raise more revenue.
Thomson did say he will attempt to secure construction funds for NVCC. The college was to have received $6.36 million for expansion of its Alexandria campus where 8,000 students are now enrolled in a facility designed for 2,000. An additional $1.8 million was slated for a college services building at the Annandale campus. Those funds were voted down last year by the House of Delegates.
NVCC President Richard J. Ernst says he looks to taxation as the only means of providing the college with fiscal relief.
"We hope there will be some sort of tax package in the General Assembly that will be palatable," he said. "I personally think an increase in the sales tax would be most palatable."
he 5 per cent cut by Godwin on this year's operating budget necessitated a hiring freeze at the college. Also there were no cost of living increases for faculty and staff, and the variety of course offerings was narrowed.
"The effect on students may be very discouraging."" said Jonathan Bryan, chairman of the college senate, an advisory body made up of faculty, staff and students. And if the governor imposes a further cut next year, it will be a disaster."
At last week's coffee students and faculty alike expressed concern and frustration as they gathered in small groups around legislators in the student lounge.
"What kind of tax possibilities are there?" student Jonathan Wilken, asked Del. Richard Hobson (D-Alexandria).
"Well, there's the sales, tax," said Hobson. "It's probably the least fair. The most fair is an income tax, but it has the last chance of passing."
In another little knot of people clustered around Del. Vincent F. Callahan (R-Faifax), the subject was paramutuel betting.
"It wouldnt cost, and it wouldn't bring in enough revenues," stated Callahan.
"What can we do?" implored faculty member Patsy Summer.
"Lobby," replied Callahan. "I think we'll come up with something down there. There are lots of alternatives at this stage of the game."
Del. Warren E. Barry (R-Fairfax), a member of the Finance Committee, said he thought a 1 per cent sales tax increase would be the best way to raise revenues for the state.
"But the majority on the finance committee aren't in a mind to raise taxes," he added.
Delegates Carrington Williams (D-Fairfax), said passage of additional taxes stand a 50-50 chance in this session of the legislature.
"The General Assembly is in a period of transition right now" Del. Thomas J. Rothrock (D-Fairfax), was telling a few people clustered around him. "It's hard to get any uniformity on a major program. I'm impressed with the sense of urgency among faculty and students here, but it would be misleading to give much encouragement."