In a belt-tightening response to the proposed county operating budget, Howard Community College officials decided last night to leave unfilled three positions next school year -- two of them administrator-level jobs.
County Executive James N. Robey's proposed budget allocates just under $12 million for the college, a 4.75 percent increase over this year's funding.
HCC officials had asked for a 7.5 percent increase. They consider the request to be conservative because other county agencies sought spending increases that averaged 13.6 percent.
Under Robey's proposed budget for fiscal year 2001, which begins July 1, county spending would increase by 10 percent.
The difference between HCC's request and Robey's proposal is about $315,000.
Raymond Wacks, Howard's budget administrator, said the county can increase spending by $42 million next year but agency requests for increases added up to $62 million.
"Pretty much everybody's operating budget was cut" as a result, Wacks said.
"The request of the Board of Education was reduced by $8.5 million, and the Police Department and all the other departments were similarly reduced," Wacks said.
Last night, community college trustees approved a recommendation to save $230,000 by not filling three positions next academic year.
Those positions -- vacant or becoming so because of retirement -- are chairman of the learning centers division and instructional assessment, vice president of organizational and community development, and assistant to the latter official.
College President Mary Ellen Duncan recommended that the positions not be filled, saying some other costs -- such as increasing faculty salaries -- cannot be delayed.
Duncan also suggested that money could be saved by waiting until well into the fiscal year before hiring some support staff and a computer technician.
"We really try to be careful about our request and to not request things we don't need, so we're disappointed," Duncan said. "But we understand that many people didn't get what they wanted."
College officials were pleased with Robey's capital plan. He has proposed fully funding their $1.9 million request to plan for a new instructional building and to renovate the physical education facility.
The college's "most pressing need" is more space, Duncan said.
Joan Athen, chairwoman of the trustees, said the cost-saving measures look doable but "tough."
"It's going to have an impact," Athen said. "We are very conservative and have always been under everyone else [in budget requests], and always tried to be realistic with the county. It hurts when we called it so close and still can't get the funding."
Trustee Frederick A. Schoenbrodt asked whether there were alternatives to the hiring delay.
"It seems to me that some of those positions are still important," he said.
"They're all important," Duncan said. But "that seems like the most logical way to go about doing this," she added.
Before the meeting, Athen said trustees will "definitely" not raise tuition for the next school year.
"We're not going to put it on the backs of the students," she said. "But we'll have to look at it for future years."