By JohnTaylor Wildfeuer and Skylar Wildfeuer
On June 24 the City College Board of Trustees met for the last time this fiscal year.
Several items were not addressed and have been set for the first meeting back from the Board’s summer hiatus, including detailed updates on the permanent chancellorship, use of real estate, the administration of the oath of office to Student Trustee Malinalli Villalobos, and specifics on how much money the college will receive from the state of California to balance its budget and how that money will be spent. The first meeting of the Board of Trustees of the 2021-22 school year takes place tomorrow, Aug. 26.
In their final meeting of the 2020-21 school year on June 24, the Board of Trustees attempted to tackle several of the pressing issues facing the college.
Prominent among issues raised by public commenters at the June 24 Board meeting was frustration over the passage of a budget with incomplete calculations for next year and promise of a report in August.
Vice Chancellor John al-Amin described the current budget to meeting attendees as a temporary, fluid document designed to maintain compliance with Title V of the California Code of Regulations. It met the requirements of a balanced spending plan by allocating only currently available resources.
“This is a placeholder budget while we continue to refine and resolve our revenues,” said al-Amin. A currently unknown amount is expected to come from the state. Other sources of revenue include outside contributions and reductions of the college’s expenditures.
Trustee John Rizzo asked for clarification about necessary items in the budget that were allocated no funding. The vice chancellor explained that those items will be funded when more money has been made available. To have passed an unbalanced spending plan would have left the school vulnerable to an unfavorable audit finding which would lead the college closer to state takeover or a loss of accreditation.
According to city and state representatives, it is the current task of the college to prove it has the ability to manage its own finances.
Trustee Thea Selby expressed frustration with the state of California for deferring on giving money to the college, as did a private development company renting space owned by the college, leaving City College to attempt to prove fiscal responsibility with funds it does not have. She expressed hope that Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Gordon Mar and their colleagues will be able to negotiate funding from the city for the college.
Trustee Selby also praised the transparency of the document presented by al-Amin and asked both Deputy Chancellor Dianna Gonzalez and al-Amin about the planned process to develop the “placeholder” budget into the final budget. Selby said, “I am asking of the interim chancellor and yourself that we work together to create a budget we believe in.”
Vice Chancellor al-Amin expected remaining decisions and data about revenues to materialize over the summer.
The next Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for Aug. 26. The deadline for the finalized budget and the conclusion date of the statewide budgetary planning period is Sep. 15. If al-Amin is equipped to present a complete list of revenue at the former, there will be twenty days left to deliberate how to allocate before the latter.
John al-Amin presented to the board a request from Integral Communities, a real estate development company, for a deferral “of no more than twelve months” for $100,000 of rent owed on college owned property at 33 Gough Street. In public comment, Instructor Abigail Bornstein pointed out that Integral also requested to refinance their debt on the property.
Trustee Alan Wong suggested an amendment to the motion to allow the deferral on condition that interest be charged. This was approved unanimously by acclimation.
In an interview with The Guardsman, Wong expressed interest in collaborating with compatible nonprofits for student and city benefit, saying, “I would support renting out some of our facilities to nonprofits that have a shared vision with the college.” This would not require a charter amendment but merely an innovation in facilities policy.
The Board also approved the renewal of a contract with legal firm Atkinson, Loya, Ruud, and Romo for “an amount not to exceed $600,000.”
Trustee Wong and Trustee Davila described a lack of accessibility of legal counsel and expressed concern over the lack of clarity regarding who they represent. Trustee Brigitte Davila, speaking from her experience, expressed concerns over the ability of one firm to represent both the Board and City College administrators saying, “My point is that sometimes the board members will have a different angle on something than administrators. Well, does this same firm then represent us?”
Several other trustees described satisfactory experiences contacting legal counsel, including Trustee Tom Temprano and Trustee John Rizzo. The change from in-house counsel took place under Chancellor Vurdien’s leadership in an effort to cut costs.
Legal counsel may prove an important tool in negotiations to come, both with the delicate balancing act of budget and faculty and with new and changing federal health guidelines governing campus policy.
According to Facility Committee Chair Alberto Vasquez, the college will be upgrading its campus air filters from ones with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values (MERV) score of 8 to new MERV 13. These will be better able to remove dust, smoke, and finer particulates.
Vasquez committed at the June 24 Board meeting to monitoring and replacing the MERV 13 filters on a regular basis.
Issues were raised by both Trustees Rizzo and Wong regarding plans to return to campus in some capacity, and the safety risks and legal liabilities that may follow.
In the event that a case of Covid-19 were to appear on campus Trustee Rizzo says, “I want your assurance that we the Trustees will hear about it, and that it will be made public. There will be no cover-ups of cases resulting from people attending City College classes.”
Dianna Gonzales, who was later elected interim chancellor by the Trustees, replied, “Yes. Unequivocally, yes.”
The Board of Trustees will meet again on Aug. 26 and the conversation about the future of City College between the board, the administrators, the faculty, the facilities staff, the students, and the city of San Francisco will continue.