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Private Donations Make Community Colleges Soar

Posted: September 4, 2018 — Public budgeting is much more complex than most people might imagine; mostly because there are many rules and regulations that govern public funds. Unless you work with it frequently, it may not make sense from the outside. This is true at all levels of government. It is also true of public higher education and certainly community colleges – like Fulton-Montgomery Community College.

It has been said by some folks on campus and members of our Foundation that “Public funds keep the college operating; private dollars bring excellence.” It is true that private funds can propel an institution like FM into the future and provide space and resources for students on our campus. Without private funds FM would not have the benefit of building The Allen House, which is providing a venue for our community to use for events, the Raider Trader, our newly added College Store, Books and Bytes (coffee shop), Union Stations (renovated cafeteria), The Pit (student gathering spot), Raiders’ Cove (evening venue for students), the Sculpture Garden and 9/11 Memorial and other spaces as well. Additionally, private donations provide well over $100,000 of scholarships for students each year.

When FM has capital project needs (new buildings, renovations, large equipment) the cost for these projects are split 50/50 between local resources and a New York State match. Local resources may include our County Sponsors, donations through our Foundation or funds from our Fulmont College Association, which is the corporation that oversees our housing, food service operation and college store.   Capital funds budgets are not allowed to be mixed with operating budgets. That is, when capital money or donations are provided for a project they cannot be diverted to cover operating expenses at the College.

FM’s $18,132,437 operating budget for 2018-19 consists of County Support (16%), Chargebacks – other counties that support student attendance (5%), fees (8%), state support (28%), tuition (40%), and use of fund balance (3%). This budget supports the daily operations of the college including personnel, benefits, utilities, supplies, equipment, maintenance, etc. Capital budgets and housing are not included in these numbers and must stand alone.

Our County Sponsors have helped FM capital projects, in large part, by supporting renovations of education spaces, equipment purchases and critical maintenance items (HVAC, water infiltration, etc.). Since 2006, Montgomery County has provided about $2.4 million and Fulton County has also provided $2.4 million for such projects on campus. These renovations and maintenance projects are critically important to keep the facilities of the College functional for our students and community.

However, other projects that have provided needed renovations for student spaces, improvements to the campus atmosphere, creation and upgrades of student social spaces, the purchase of some classroom equipment, etc. have been funded by monies donated to the Foundation (about $3.6 million) and through donations and the Fulmont College Association (about $2.1 million). These funds truly create spaces and an environment for students and the community that are modern, comfortable, colorful and attractive. They bring students to FM and provide spaces for discussions, entertainment, celebrations, learning and activities.

Public – private partnerships, like those provided through the Foundation, truly take FM to new levels without an additional burden on the local tax base. They also demonstrate to donors that the funds that they provide have a real impact on FM and our students in so many ways. Thank you to all who have donated in the past and to our future donors as well.

This article was written by Dustin Swanger, Ed.D., President of Fulton-Montgomery Community College.

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