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NIC unveils proposed FY2025 budget

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Staff Writer | April 25, 2024 1:07 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — North Idaho College trustees took a first look at the proposed budget for fiscal year 2025 and examined options for how to cover an anticipated net deficit of $5.2 million.

The $55 million proposed budget does not include an increase in student tuition, nor does it include a base property tax increase. About $1.2 million, which is expected to be covered by state funds, will provide the equivalent of a 3% pay increase for full-time and part-time employees.

Meanwhile, about $4.1 million will be budgeted to cover anticipated expenses associated with NIC’s return to the National Junior College Athletics Association. The budget assumes that all 152 of NIC’s student athletes will fall into the highest tuition rate schedule, about $10,000 per semester, and that the college will cover their tuition, room and board, books and a round-trip flight.

Sarah Garcia, NIC’s vice president of finance and business, recommended that trustees utilize $2.6 million in fund balance and reallocate $2.6 million in capital investment reserve funds to operations. She emphasized that this is not a sustainable solution and the college must identify other funding sources in the future.

“This is a one-time, one-year fix,” she said.

Trustee Todd Banducci said the athletics budget represents “pie in the sky” numbers and the actual cost won’t be as high as what was estimated.

“I understand being risk averse, but let’s tone down some of the rhetoric,” he said. “I don’t quite understand some of the narrative. It’s almost like it’s a negative that we’re supporting the student athletes, as the president recommended and as the board voted for.”

Garcia acknowledged that the estimate is high.

“The course of a first full year will help us understand the true cost,” she said. “We do have to take a hard look at what we’re spending and make sure it’s allocated in the right way.”

Increased enrollment could soften the blow in the future, Garcia said. Though overall headcount is down about 4% compared to last spring, the number of first-time, degree-seeking students has increased by about 13% at NIC.

“For the first time in a long time, our new student enrollment is up,” NIC President Nick Swayne said. “Based on early reports, we’re expecting flat for the first time for fall, maybe even an uptick.”

The spring 2024 headcount is 3,801 students, with a full-time equivalency of 2,182 students.

Trustees also voted 3-2 to change NIC policy and grant the board the authority to “approve presidential expenses and other approved board expenses such as monthly attorney fees or meeting expenses.” Trustees Tarie Zimmerman and Brad Corkill cast the dissenting votes.

Swayne said he believes the policy inappropriately interferes with college operations and will reflect badly on NIC in the eyes of its accreditor, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. He also suggested the board’s action was “retaliatory.”

“Everything that I do is above board,” Swayne said. “My expenses are probably lower than any of the last five presidents we’ve had in the last two years. I have no problem with making them public. It’s the attorney fees that add an extra step to my work. I have a responsibility to ensure those are accurate.”

Board chair Mike Waggoner said he doesn’t think the policy change intrudes into college operations.

“I just don’t see that this is that big of a thing,” he said.