Budget shortfalls at Perimeter College go back several years

As the AJC delves deeper into the financial crisis at Georgia Perimeter College, new questions emerge in light of what seem to be serial shortfalls at the school.

Who was minding the store at the campus and at the Regents? Will students and faculty return to a diminished campus and offerings as a result of what could be a $16 million shortfall this year?

The newspaper reports that the budget deficit that drove Georgia Perimeter College President Anthony Tricoli from office last week was not the school’s first, or even second or third.

Many of the posters have said that Tricoli was unaware of the massive shortfalls. But, as we have been discussing on the blogs on the firing of principals in APS schools where there was widespread cheating, aren’t top leaders responsible for what occurs under their watch?

According to the AJC:

State audits and a University System analysis show the school has been overspending its budget by millions of dollars for the past four years and has whittled down its cash reserves to almost nothing as Tricoli dipped into the funds to cover the deficits.

In both fiscal 2009 and 2010, the school spent more than $7 million more than it took in from tuition, fees, grants and state and federal appropriations. In fiscal 2011, the shortfall fell to $5 million. This year, which ends June 30, the deficit could hit $16 million, the largest shortfall in memory — and possibly ever — at a state college.

“If it turns out to be $16 million, I would say this is unprecedented,” said Claire Arnold, director of the education audit division of the State Department of Audits and Accounts.

The school’s reserves fell from $9.2 million in 2008 to $288,000 when this fiscal year began last July.

Neither University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby nor Tricoli would answer questions about the financial crisis. Tricoli, who has been singled out for praise by Huckaby in the past, referred the AJC to his lawyer.

Tricoli, once considered a rising star in the system, was moved into a central office job, and the school’s top financial officer had already been scheduled to retire. But the impact of the fiscal crisis on students and faculty at the nearly 27,000-student two-year college could be far-reaching.

University System officials have been vague so far about the impact on students and faculty. They are still looking at the school’s books.

But Huckaby said in a letter to the college community that the shortfall will follow the school into next year, and the consequences could include layoffs.

“We do not know at this time precisely the impact in every budget area, but it will be significant and will likely impact personnel,” he wrote. “These actions are necessary to address a shortfall of this magnitude.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

78 comments Add your comment

bootney farnsworth

May 13th, 2012
11:56 am

seems to me based on today’s article, Tricoli was well aware what was going on.
which means he’s either delusional or a liar

bootney farnsworth

May 13th, 2012
12:04 pm

the real villain in this mess is the BOR, who have been asleep at the switch for several years.
a lot of good people- the majority of our part timers- have already been told not to expect to return
July 1.

more bodies will follow shortly.

there are ethics complaints against Tricoli and many of his inner circle
there are numerous complaints about his reckless spending
there are multiple complaints about his abusive approach to F/S
he constantly disregarded or disobeyed instruction from the BOR
he is/was extremely unpopular with other USG presidents.

the BOR knew all this. all this.
and yet they did nothing.

in my mind the BOR is more culpable in this fiasco than Tricoli.

bootney farnsworth

May 13th, 2012
12:08 pm

the BOR owes it to every person who gets displaced by this abomination who is not guilty of fiscal mismanagement to do every real thing possible to relocate them within the system.

not the penny ante BS they did to Con Ed when Tricoli folded it.

bootney farnsworth

May 13th, 2012
12:14 pm

I wonder what in this may be against the laws of the state?
do Tricoli, Carruth, ect have criminal liability here?

bootney farnsworth

May 13th, 2012
12:33 pm

places to cut with the least impact. it won’t be enough, but its a start.

1-Athletics. honor all the scholarships, reassign all the coaches/support personnel to other duties in the school or system. maybe in time we can revive the basketball or soccer programs.

2-Southern Academy. return everyone to the classroom, unless an outside sponsor can be found to
fund it.

3-Sustainability. tougher…assuming the director can teach at least two classes, and can focus on things which will actually save us money down the road give it a reduced status.

4- big parties: Convocation, ribbon cuttings, unveilings, ect. these aren’t necessarily bad things, we just refuse to do them in a simple straightforward manner. until we learn this isn’t Broadway and
we’re not staging the latest revival of Joseph & the Dreamcoat, we stop

5-slow down the rotation of computer replacements. focus on freeware as much as possible, not the latest and fanciest software.

6-work from home at least one day a week.

7-year ’round 4 day work week

8-consolidate the Decatur library into something closer to Alpharetta.

so far not one job lost

Ann Slotemaker

May 13th, 2012
12:41 pm

Dr.Tricoli was a good President and many of you haters must remember all of the good things he contributed to the college. Google his name and you can see all the postive Feedback he has done through-out the years. This is ashame that all you people forget the good in people.One can only go by what the books are telling you, and others need to be looked at more closely…not Dr. Tricoli. He is the best President the college ever had and it’s shame that some of you forget all the postive he has created for the collge.

GPC Prof

May 13th, 2012
1:03 pm

To Bootney’s list, I add the following as easy places to eliminate spending:

1. The Atlanta Center for Civic Engagement and Service Learning.

2. The Center for Teaching and Learning.

3.. All slick publications like the Loop.

4. All advertising on billboards and the radio.

5. The student recruitment office.

6. All honorariums for outside speakers.

7. All non-educational videos, dvds, and cds for the library collection.

There must be others, but these immediately come to mind.

Georgia's sun

May 13th, 2012
1:04 pm

Careful Bootney, your four day work week just fired/let go all the part time faculty that teach on Friday/Saturdays.

Also , you missed slashing travel budgets and supple budgets.

taxpaying teacher

May 13th, 2012
1:28 pm

@Bootney, I agree completely with you that any claim of ignorance or incomplete information on Tricoli’s part is now untenable. The BoR doesn’t exactly look blameless, either.

teacher&mom

May 13th, 2012
1:45 pm

So who holds the BoR’s feet to the fire?

Gail

May 13th, 2012
1:52 pm

The problem I have found with the entire post-secondary educational system in GA is no real accountability.
There are too many cooks in the kitchen- the college administrations, the BOR, the state legislature, the governor etc. No one group is held accountable for any actions. Each one deflects blame for any financial problems or shortfalls to the others.

I have called the GA Department of Audits and was told they only give the audit to the agency or group who requested the audit. My understanding is they do not enforce the findings. One in particular that is troubling to me is the audit of Mandatory Student Fees that was released May 2010. Performance Audit 09-05. Colleges continue to increase & collect fees while having millions of dollars unspent from previous years. In addition, the University of GA has a recreation facility fee that should partially expire in 2013. Yet according to the audit, the University plans to continue collecting the $50 fee to fund the Tate Center Addition.
http://www.audits.ga.gov/rsaAudits/viewMain.aud

Hillbilly D

May 13th, 2012
1:54 pm

aren’t top leaders responsible for what occurs under their watch?

Responsibility is only for the common folks. The “leaders” always find a way to weasel out of it. If they do happen to lose a job one place, they’ll just move across the country and get a high-paying job, doing the same thing, somewhere else.

bootney farnsworth

May 13th, 2012
2:08 pm

I know a lot will disagree here, but IMO its time for the legislature (yes, those idiots) to regain at least partial control of our fiscal resources.

we’ve proven we can’t do it ourselves.

bootney farnsworth

May 13th, 2012
2:11 pm

the bigger problem is the USG system is out of balance.

in matters of budget -we make all the calls.
in matters of ethics complaints – we self investigate.
in matters of management/staff conflict – management sets the rules HR uses.
in matters of compensation (or lack thereof) – we decide.

as long as the inmates run the asylum, we’re screwed.

bootney farnsworth

May 13th, 2012
2:13 pm

is it true Carruth got a $11,000 raise earlier this year?
I hear the rumor everywhere, but no proof

if true, HTH did that happen?

LosBravos

May 13th, 2012
2:13 pm

@Bootney – not bad suggestions. The issue with #5, if I remember correctly, is that we already have the computers sitting around. Wonder if we can sell them back. If I may add a few to your list:

The printing has to stop. With the technology we have in place today, there is no reason that faculty and staff need to print as much as we do. Time to advocate for paperless classrooms and near-paperless offices.

Increase classes in those traditional lecture courses: I remember taking a macroeconomics course with 300 at the university. We have some large lecture-style classrooms on every campus. These are way underused.

Charge more for parking (side effect of which may be more students figure out how to carpool and/or use public transportation).

Start marketing our campuses as places for corporations and businesses to host weekend workshops. A building like CN on Clarkston would be perfect for this. The buildings not being used can be locked down with minimal controls running (65 in the winter, 80 in the summer).

Just some thoughts.

niecey

May 13th, 2012
2:20 pm

@bootney, you should start your own blog and stop hogging this one.

georgias sun

May 13th, 2012
3:55 pm

@LosBravos

Isn’t there already an effort at the school to go as paperless as possible, but I cannot see how a traditional class can be completely paperless, how would students take exams? Maybe cut out reviews, worksheets and similar, but not 100% paperless.

Also, where is the balance in workload for someone teaching a 300 student section? that is 10x the normal classroom which means 10x the number of papers, assignments, etc to grade. It would kill morale of faculty to increase their workload by 10 times on top of getting furloughs.

And, GPC is not a university, one of the appeals of two-year colleges is to have smaller classrooms.

I do like your idea of renting/leasing out space to the community or businesses.

It’s a shame how many people will be impacted by this situation that did nothing to cause it.

Beverly Fraud

May 13th, 2012
4:50 pm

@niecey I wasn’t aware that there was a limited amount of space on this blog that bootney was “hogging up”

Let the scroll button be your friend if you don’t like the posts…

CW

May 13th, 2012
5:04 pm

To Budget Shortfalls: How can a president be responsible if those directly in charge of Financial and Administrative Affairs are showing him documentation with false numbers? The latest article quotes one of the Regents saying “We have to be fair and we have to get all the facts….We have got to find out who knew what and how this happened.” Shouldn’t this have been done before the president was removed? They also say the “situation isn’t clear cut” and that they “need more time.” Why then the rush to remove the president? It doesn’t seem as if he got his day in court, but then scapegoats never do.

CW

May 13th, 2012
5:05 pm

How can a president be responsible if those directly in charge of Finances are showing him false figures and documentation? The latest article quotes one of the Regents saying “We have to be fair and we have to get all the facts….We have got to find out who knew what and how this happened.” Shouldn’t this have been done before the president was removed? They also say the “situation isn’t clear cut” and that they “need more time.” Why then the rush to remove the president? It doesn’t seem as if he got his day in court, but then scapegoats never do.

bootney farnsworth

May 13th, 2012
5:08 pm

while there’s a large part of me which wishes it could make Tricoli & co personally responsible for this
abomination, I’m beyond that at this point. the main thing now is

1-getting the school back on its feet, fiscally and intellectually
2-saving as many jobs as we can in the process.

what we need to do is find where we can cut a bit here and a bit there
so it goes as far as possible. we didn’t get here 16 mil at a time, and we
can’t fix it $16 mil at a time.

bootney farnsworth

May 13th, 2012
5:13 pm

@ los,

there might be a happy middle ground with things like being a community venue if we can start charging the community for the expense of being open. not make a profit, just not absorb the
loss. it could also help justify a few more OIT jobs.

I know we already have made financial commitments we must honor. and there is no point in tossing away things already bought. lets just plan to be more prudent in the future.

bootney farnsworth

May 13th, 2012
5:16 pm

@ CW,

its simple. he was in charge.
it was his job to be responsible.

and don’t think this disaster was the only reason he got the boot.
this was the tree which broke the jaguar’s back

bootney farnsworth

May 13th, 2012
5:21 pm

@ Ann,

will his positive feedback pay your mortgage if you get booted out?
will it put food on your table?
will it find you a job in this horrible economy?

and does it excuse his gross mismanagement of this college?

he nearly bankrupted us and people are gonna lose their jobs – but hey! its OK, he got
positive feedback on the internet.

Concerned

May 13th, 2012
5:24 pm

What is amazing is that some colleges have 16 million dollars as their entire yearly budget.

LosBravos

May 13th, 2012
5:54 pm

@Concerned – name one.

concerned

May 13th, 2012
6:17 pm

I am concerned after reading the latest article “Shortfalls” in the AJC. Regents Chairman Ben Tarbutton stated that the “buck stops” with the president but he says that the situation “isn’t clear cut.” He needs to find out “who knew what and how this happened.” He also comments that System staff has been aware of the situation for less than two weeks and “need more time,” and he alerts us that “There’s “more to come.” Each of these comments suggests they should have waited before firing the president of the college. Why would they destroy someone’s career before having all the facts and a complete investigation?

bootney farnsworth

May 13th, 2012
6:40 pm

@ concerned,

none in the Regents’ system.
perhaps a small bible college somewhere?

bootney farnsworth

May 13th, 2012
6:50 pm

I’ve been thinking about the false numbers claim.

lets work for a moment as if it is true:
for several years in a row we’ve had to hit our reserve, to the point where we’re effectively bankrupt.
I believe that requires presidential authorization.

so the following scenarios come up
a-Tricoli knew and didn’t care
b-Tricoli knew and thought he’d outrun it
c-Tricoli didn’t know, and didn’t catch on
d-Tricoli didn’t know, and didn’t care to know so he made sure he didn’t ask
e-Tricoli knew, but was too (fill in the blank) to do anything about it
f-Tricoli knew just didn’t care
g-Tricoli didn’t know and was too busy with his initiatives to bother to look

regardless, we’re here now.
and we’re in trouble

catlady

May 13th, 2012
6:54 pm

Is anyone in charge at the BOR, or are they ALL dammed idiots? The Pres and his supporting cast, as well as those at the BOR who allowed it, should be terminated immediately! Not kicked to the Central Office in charge of “special projects.”

redweather

May 13th, 2012
7:26 pm

Public colleges often dip into their reserve funds, which are typically unrestricted, to pay for repairs and various upgrades of one type or another. I wouldn’t be surprised if this has been happening with greater frequency over the last few years as state legislatures cut public education budgets. Perhaps Tricoli thought that as long as Georgia’s legislature was cutting GPC’s budget, he could spend more of the reserve.

bootney farnsworth

May 13th, 2012
8:58 pm

@ catlady,

as far as I can tell, they’re all idiots of the worst time
political hacks/appointees

bootney farnsworth

May 13th, 2012
9:00 pm

the only person who destroyed Anthony Tricoli’s career is Anthony Tricoli.

NBCT

May 13th, 2012
9:02 pm

@GPC Professor: I think cutting advertising is counterintuitive to more funds. We need more students coming to GPS not less. Once you cut advertising you will cut influx of new students.

Alanis NotMorrisette

May 13th, 2012
9:18 pm

@NBCT Tricoli got called on the carpet for the advertising. He didn’t realize when he arrived that all advertising has to be approved by the USG. How many other state colleges do you see advertising?

Alanis NotMorrisette

May 13th, 2012
9:38 pm

@Bootney: “I wonder what in this may be against the laws of the state? do Tricoli, Carruth, ect have criminal liability here?”

Fraud, maybe. It’s more likely that their hiring and firing behavior has placed the college itself in an actionable position, and the college’s lawyer works on retainer.

budget crisis

May 13th, 2012
10:20 pm

Many financial institutions are hurting everywhere. I hope things get better soon for all. I don’t know the answer.

A Proud GPC Employee

May 13th, 2012
10:32 pm

My suggestion would be for each individual at Georgia Perimeter College, who is in charge of a set of funds of any size, to look for places that they can reasonably cut without dramatically affecting their role in fulfilling the college mission. Then send suggestions up the food chain. This alone may be enough to cover the gap. If not, then those with the power to make decisions of this nature will need to determine which aspects of our current vision are going to have to be sacrificed.

As so many have mentioned, it would be wonderful if we could spare as many of the jobs of the hard working and dedicated faculty and staff at Georgia Perimeter College as possible.

Prof

May 13th, 2012
10:45 pm

About a month ago, I had occasion to check the Regents Policy on termination of tenured faculty for a tenured faculty friend whose University program seemed in danger of being cut, and found this:

“8.5.2 Layoffs or Terminations.

Layoffs or terminations may occur within an academic or other units of an institution without a net loss of faculty members or other personnel at the institution; that is, layoffs or terminations in some academic or other units may occur with simultaneous authorization of new positions for different duties in academic or other units depending upon the needs of such units.”

In other words, program cuts will not cause tenured faculty to lose their positions within the institution, for they will be reassigned elsewhere within it. I have seen this policy enacted at my own University again and again over the years.

I just checked Section 8.5.2, and this paragraph has been removed. One should keep in mind that the BOR defines University executives as “faculty” if they have ever been tenured faculty at an earlier time. All of this explains how Presidents as well as the instructional faculty have been able to resurface elsewhere in their University. But no more, I guess.

GPC tenured faculty: note this significant change.

Anonmom

May 13th, 2012
11:06 pm

I really don’t understand why we (GA) don’t have mandatory forensic audits, with enforcement mechanisms throughout our education — or at least public education system (yes, I know they cost a bi of money). We are spending billions/trillions of dollars on these schools — annually and there is zero accountability. Further, unlike 501(c)(3) organizations — they don’t file annual tax returns, with public disclosures and don’t have to file notices about conflicts of interest required under ‘recent’ IRS guidelines. There are no checks and balances of really significant taxpayer money.

bootney farnsworth

May 13th, 2012
11:49 pm

before we can really do much of anything cutting wise, we need to determine the following:

who are we, and who do we serve?

are we a large two year school which helps bridge young people to the next phase of their lives, or are we aiming to be the next big thing in education competing with UGA?

until we resolve this issue, all the cuts in the world will be useless to solving the main problem.

bootney farnsworth

May 13th, 2012
11:51 pm

@ Alanis

hiring and firing are potentially much bigger issues. while the humanities mess is the most public, its not at all the only debacle out there.

Atlanta mom

May 13th, 2012
11:55 pm

I want a job where I can be over budget by millions of dollars for three years before anyone notices.

bootney farnsworth

May 13th, 2012
11:56 pm

@ proud,

there is no way we can escape this without some level of layoffs.
the gap is too big, the administrative growth too unrestrained, and the mission too vague

what I’m really afraid of is a repeat of what we went through just a couple years ago with
one discipline throwing another under the budgetary bus. its one thing to vent some righteous
anger towards an overall unpopular president. it’s quite another to start making each other
walk the plank.

bootney farnsworth

May 13th, 2012
11:57 pm

@ Atl mom

apply for the GPC presidency. we appear to have an opening

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

May 14th, 2012
1:43 am

In the 21st Century, how do the USG and its member institutions avoid rigorous external financial audits by competent, disinterested, out-of-state entities whose unredacted reports would be disseminated statewide through print and electronic media?

catlady

May 14th, 2012
6:59 am

What happened here is like taking an increasing line of credit out on the house, BUT IT IS NOT YOUR HOUSE! I find it incredible that this man is keeping his job. Like B. Hall, he is either STUPID or INCOMPETENT. The BOR might also fit in here, as well.

A Proud GPC Employee

May 14th, 2012
7:42 am

@bootney

I think everyone understands that job losses are likely (and, if you had read my post carefully you would see that I had simply hoped that job losses would be MINIMAL), a hope that an earlier post of yours had also expressed:

If I may quote an earlier post of yours, “7-year ’round 4 day work week

8-consolidate the Decatur library into something closer to Alpharetta.

so far not one job lost”

It is reasonable for GPC employees, who have no culpability in this matter, to expect that the college will look for cuts in other places first before taking the step of laying people off. I am glad that you have expressed the same expectation.

Unfortunately, layoffs are the easiest place to make up a shortfall because staffing is by far one of the biggest expenditures and the easiest to eliminate. I think we all should continue to remind the BOR and the higher ups that real and hard working people, who had nothing to do with the shortfall, will lose their jobs and other cuts should be the priority.

Although I am frustrated by being reminded a second time of something that my post clearly recognizes already, I would welcome commentary on the substance of my post.

bootney farnsworth

May 14th, 2012
7:58 am

@ proud,

1-reach out to Rob Watts with your ideas. he probably can’t use them (I think the BOR already has given him marching orders) but if we don’t try we’ll never know.

2-IMO the BOR has made it clear it doesn’t give a damn about us, if they did they would have put the breaks on this runaway train years ago..

the BOR has once again been shown to be somewhere between useless and incompetent. they will gladly, happy, let us all go if they think it will take the heat off them.

the BOR is not our friend in this matter. the best we can hope for is they don’t decide to make us a sacrifice for political expediency