Board unanimously approves proposed budget

The Santa Fe College Board of Trustees unanimously approved the college’s 2014-15 budget Tuesday evening. The proposed budget was presented to faculty and staff in a college-wide meeting Monday, June 16, where SF President Dr. Jackson Sasser emphasized the college’s commitment to respect employees and students by being fiscally responsible.

“Santa Fe College continues its sound financial planning,” Sasser said. “That, along with the willingness and ingenuity of everyone in the Santa Fe family enables us to make the best use of our resources, year after year.”

In keeping with his long-term promise to increase salaries for SF employees, Sasser recommended to the Board a one-time $500 salary supplement to be paid in November, and a 2.0% cost of living increase effective July 1, 2014 for 12-month employees and August 22, 2014 for 9-month employees. With this raise, salaries have increased more than 20% college-wide over the last five years.

Sasser emphasized the college’s commitment to its employees to offer the best possible wages and benefits, even in lean times. Sasser made the point that SF did not lay off a single employee for financial reasons during the recent recession, and was even able to set aside addition funds in savings to supplement the budget when needed. He also noted that that the salary for SF adjunct professors is among the top five of all 28 Florida colleges.

“The principles guiding my salary and benefits recommendations are to recruit and employ those most committed to student success,” said Sasser. “If we don’t offer competitive salaries, we can’t attract or retain the best faculty and staff, which directly impacts our students.”

As it has always done, the college will pay 100 percent of employee health insurance and life insurance premiums, which currently cost more than $6,500/year per person. Employees will continue to receive 22 paid college holidays in addition to up to 42 days of sick and vacation leave. Any employee required to work on a paid holiday receives holiday pay equal to more than double-time.

SF will continue to offer a tuition exchange program with the University of Florida. UF employees come to SF to take classes to enhance job skills, or even earn a degree.  Santa Fe College covers the cost of UF tuition for SF employees and their dependents. Last year 118 employees and 186 employee dependents utilized the program.

Sound financial planning will benefit students in the coming year as well. SF will not raise tuition, but the Board did approve a $.30 per credit hour activities fee to help offset the cost of adding a volleyball program to the athletics department.

“For us, the commitment not to raise tuition is important,” Sasser said. “Even a small increase per credit hour could keep a student from attending Santa Fe, and that’s not what we want.”

Santa Fe College is in a sound financial shape thanks to the excellent financial management, and in closing the meeting in the Fine Arts Hall packed with faculty and staff Sasser reiterated, “Our priority is always to maintain respect for our employees and students, and to continue to offer an excellent, open access education.”