DACC proposal to cut some athletics draws critics

DANVILLE — A proposal to suspend three Danville Area Community College athletic programs is drawing criticism from the public, particularly the athletes and their families.

On Tuesday, trustees will consider hiking tuition and suspending the men's golf and soccer programs and women's volleyball program in an effort to offset projected decreases in state funding and property tax revenue and increases in health-care and other costs in the upcoming fiscal year.

The Danville Area Community College Board of Trustees will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The meeting is in Vermilion Hall, Room 302, at the campus, 2000 E. Main St. A copy of the agenda and board packet is available online at http://bit.ly/XL7zKO.

Tuition would increase from $98 per credit hour to $108 credit hour; however, the universal fee would remain at $12. That's expected to generate another $400,000 in revenue.

The athletic programs would be suspended until further notice. That's expected to save almost $83,000 in direct costs not including athletic waivers and additional health insurance costs.

This past year, there were seven student golfers, 15 soccer players and 11 volleyball players, and most had waivers to cover at least part of their tuition.

"We hate to suspend those programs because obviously, there's student interest, and we want to offer as many programs for students as we can," said Dave Kietzmann, vice president of instruction and student services. "That being said, when you have to decide to cut or suspend programs, do you make them academic programs that will help people get jobs or transfer to a senior institution or do you cut student activities? We did what we thought would do the least harm."

DACC officials have been preparing a budget for the 2014 fiscal year, which begins July 1 and runs through June 30, 2014, for several months now. In all of his time at the college, Kietzmann said this has been one of the most difficult budgets to craft.

"Revenue is going down significantly," Kietzmann said, pointing out that the district's equalized assessed valuation is projected to decline for the fourth year in row, this time by about 4 percent. Also, Illinois Community College Board officials predict that state funding will decrease nearly 5 percent this coming year, 5 percent in Fiscal Year 2015 and as much as 13 percent in Fiscal Year 2016.

That's on top of late payments from the state, which total $2.5 million, Kietzmann said.

In addition to decreasing revenues, the college is anticipating increased expenses.

"One of the most challenging is providing health insurance to anybody that works 30 hours a week," Kietzmann said, adding that must now be done under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. He said that could run the college $11,000 to $12,000 for every eligible part-time employee.

Other unknowns include expenses that may come with pension system reforms.

As an educator in Champaign, Beth Winn of Tolono, said she understands how the state financial crisis has played havoc on education budgets and the need for schools to tighten their belts. But Winn — whose son, Ben, is a freshman soccer player at DACC — is upset that college officials didn't warn the athletes and their families this could happen earlier.

"The timing is horrific," Winn said, adding that many colleges, including DACC, have already recruited most of their players for next year. "They're leaving all of these athletes to scramble to figure out where they're going to school and robbing them of an opportunity to continue playing their sport at the college level."

Winn suggested cutting athletic waivers or at least delaying the suspension for a year to put the public on notice and allow them to make plans accordingly. If the trustees support the proposal as is, she said her son, who wants to teach high school and coach soccer, won't return, even though had a good experience at DACC, has signed up for next semester's classes and lined up a job at the daycare center.

Kietzmann said the suspensions wouldn't necessarily be permanent. The college suspended athletic programs in the 1980s due to budget constraints and reinstated them in the 1990s when the economy recovered.

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