MATC needs to cut costs

The next state biennial budget will cut funding to the Milwaukee Area Technical College by $7.5 million each year, on top of a $5 million budget cut for 2010 that it was handed in October, according to Michael Burke, president of MATC.

The next budget also prohibits the state technical college system from raising property taxes. Each of the system’s schools is funded from three sources: state aid, a share of local property taxes and tuition. Tuition is the only one the system will be able to compensate for lost funding, he said.

However, a large tuition increase is not likely because technical colleges want to make sure their services remain affordable to students.

“We can’t balance the budget on the backs of the students,” Burke said. “We’re aggressively pursuing federal funding streams, which will allow us to recover some costs.”

MATC is also looking to reduce non-teaching expenditures such as classroom supplies, travel budgets, and other campus programs that do not affect student learning. It’s also looking to redesign its health care plan to lower costs.

“At the core of the concentric circles (that surround MATC) is teaching and learning. We’re starting at the outside,” Burke said. “We also have the ability to freeze positions and not fill vacancies. People will be taking on some new job duties. That will be inevitable in the next year or so.”

Burke, who moved to Milwaukee from San Jose, Calif. in 2010, said he is optimistic about the future of southeastern Wisconsin because of the high activity level of civic and business organizations.

“We’re looking systematically as a community. Leaders are looking at ways to make the area attractive to business, improve the quality of life and create an educated workforce,” he said. “When you’re fourth in the nation in terms of poverty, you have to look at systematic solutions and I see the leadership of the community having those conversations. That’s the right path.”

While the Wisconsin Technical College System prepares for reduced funding in the next state biennial budget, it is also struggling to meet record demand for its services and a growing number of new industries taking hold in the state, many of which need its services to train new workers.

In recent years, the biotech, food, energy and manufacturing sectors have seen significant expansion, and many expect that trend to continue.

“When the economy does pick up is also when employers come to us,” said Morna Foy, a spokeswoman for the state system. “When (the state’s economy) does expand into new areas it requires new workers with new skill sets. Most of the new jobs created will require some sort of technical education. We’re seeing an increased need for our services, but we will have fewer resources to respond to the demand.”

Wisconsin’s technical college system is looking for increased energy efficiency on its campuses and will need to reduce its total head count, Foy said. However, some of its costs will not be able to be reduced immediately because of existing contracts – and the system may need to raise tuition to meet some of its funding needs.

“There will be no increase in state aid or our tax levy (because of the biennial budget),” Foy said. “It wouldn’t be possible to capture that revenue cut from just our students, but they will be our only funding partner that will be bearing a greater cost.”

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display