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State budget crisis prompts FRC to renegotiate fitness center contract

Tiffiney Lozano
Staff Writer

The state budget crunch has recreation and other non-vocational programs under fire at California community colleges.

The chancellor's office wants to ensure state money is spent in alignment with the priorities laid out by the government.

State law says the principle mission of community colleges is to offer academic and vocational instruction at the lower-division level.

Locally, this means reduced funds to Feather River Fitness and Recreation, which is owned and operated by the Feather River College Foundation.

Despite the promised decrease in funding, Chief Instructional Officer Dr. Michael Bagley maintains recreation courses will still be open to the community.

"It is my intention to continue to offer health and exercise studies courses to the community at FRFR in the future," he said in a recent phone interview.

Since 2001, Feather River College has run the majority of its physical education classes through the fitness center and offered community members use of the gym by enrolling in a class titled Lifelong Fitness.

The arrangement ensured FRC and the community a fitness center and historically generated an income for the college through a complicated funding mechanism known as FTEs or the full-time equivalent formula.

Most state funds are allocated to community colleges using a formula that assigns a cash value to the number of FTEs credited to any given college.

Previously, anyone who used the gym, student or not, was contributing to the full-time equivalent system used to fund the college.

In recent years however, significant changes were made in how the state monitors courses that are repeated, and FRC is no longer able to claim FTEs for community members enrolled in Lifelong Fitness.

According to college president Dr. Ron Taylor, these changes in funding and repeatability began in November; however, the college was already in proactive mode.

In the 2008-09 fiscal year, FRC did not claim any FTEs from the fitness center for state apportionment. The figure for fitness center FTEs the college claimed in previous fiscal years was unreported.

The college has initiated discussions with staff at the fitness center and made changes to its course offerings.

An example is the new Principles of Performance course offered this spring, which Dr. Bagley said is much more academic in nature, with an instructor, course syllabus and several opportunities for evaluation.

At their last board meeting, trustees directed Dr. Taylor to terminate the college's current agreement with the foundation regarding the operation of the fitness center.

Under the current agreement, a six-month notice is required to make any changes to the existing agreement. Dr. Taylor said a termination letter would be sent to the foundation early this week.

Dr. Taylor said a detailed analysis would determine the optimal agreement for all parties involved. He indicated it was premature to speculate on what that agreement might look like.

"Whether it is an increase in fees, or some decrease in activities offered, there will likely be an adjustment," he said.

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