“Our job is to provide employees for our employers,” said HCC President Dr. Barbara Parker.”
Several of the proposed increases — along with the school’s free tuition guarantee — aim to do just that, but the volume of the requests will test appetite of Haywood County Commissioners for increased capital outlays.
The good news is that salaries and fringe benefits will remain relatively flat, with just a $23,735 increase proposed against a prior year budget of $1.1 million; likewise, the professional development budget remains unchanged at $13,200.
Other costs, like tree removal and pest control, will jump almost 20 percent to $513,000, but that’s relatively meager compared to another contracted service.
“This is the big one,” Parker said, revealing that HCC’s contract for custodial services — which hasn’t been renegotiated in seven years — would likely double.
Currently, the vendor charges about $1.69 a square foot, and hasn’t changed the total cost of services despite the addition of new buildings at HCC. After checking around, Parker said she thinks that cost will rise to $2.88 per square foot. Factoring in the new buildings, it’s likely custodial services would jump from $300,000 a year to over $600,000.
Bids for the service are due by April 24, which will give HCC a clearer picture of the cost increase.
The ever-rising cost of utilities will also result in a 10 percent jump, from $533,000 to more than $590,000; Parker says she expects an increase of 5 percent for water, and 9 percent for AT&T’s telecommunications services, including new lines in the Regional Business Advancement Center.
HCC seems to have dodged a bullet though in another troublesome line item. Most local governments are grappling with substantial rate increases in insurance, but the community college will see only an 8 percent increase.
All that adds up to a proposed fiscal year 2019-20 operating budget of $3.24 million, 17.9 percent larger than last year’s; without the increase in custodial services, that would have been a 9.4 percent increase.
Capital outlay budget
HCC’s auditorium, perhaps the largest in the area, could see $325,000 in improvements to the curtains, PA system, and stage lighting. Built in 1990, the 1,000-seat auditorium still has its original furnishings.
Parker said that from Nov. 1, 2017, to Nov. 1, 2018, the auditorium hosted 248 events and more than 30,000 people from 80 organizations, many of whom are repeat users.
They’re also looking to replace a 19-year-old, 15-passenger van, a maintenance truck and an arboretum truck, bringing the capital outlay budget to $417,000, up 15.8 percent from last year. The auditorium improvements account for 78 percent of the increase.
By far the biggest outlay would be a new facility that would not only increase the capacity of HCC’s well-regarded nursing program, but also serve as an economic development boost to the area.
With that, she described a new 16,000-square-foot Health and Human Services Building that would contain a 16-bed simulation lab for the school’s health programs, a 30-seat computer lab, a 40-seat biology lab, a 100-seat lecture hall, and space for administration and faculty offices.
“Certainly, this produces graduates with skills needed across the medical community in Haywood County,” said Parker. “Especially with our aging population, there are going to be medical needs here. This will provide a number of LPN positions, higher paying positions.”
The building will also help lay the groundwork for a retooled EMS program that by 2023 must be a 2-year degree program.
The price tag? More than $7.2 million.
First, there’s the 10 percent design fee of $566,000. Construction costs are estimated to be $5.6 million, including a half-percent per month allowance for price escalations. Soil testing and surveying add another $15,000 to the tab, and furnishings, including security, add another $825,000 to that.
In 2015, as a result of the Connect NC Bond, $2.8 million was appropriated to HCC, and that money’s still in the kitty; if they don’t use it by 2021, it goes away.
Commissioners pondered how to pay for Parker’s proposal, with Mark Pless suggesting that HCC could use that bond money now and perhaps split the project, which would likely take between two and three years to complete, over multiple budget years.
Even by using the bond money, though, that leaves a funding gap for the project of more than $4.4 million.
“I’d like for us to fund this, from an economic development perspective,” said Haywood Board of Commissioners Chairman Kevin Ensley. “Every time they turn out a nurse, that becomes a $50,000 a year job.”
Ensley said that some of the existing quarter-cent sales tax might be used to help pay for the project.
“I think there’s some room there,” he said. “I think we can maybe do it with the money we’ve already got coming in. I’m comfortable with moving forward on this.”
Parker said she felt encouraged by commissioners’ responses.