‘Cornerstone of the community’: HCC budgets for the coming year
Haywood Community College has long been a foundation of education and job training in the region; the college will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2025.
But over the last several years, between the pandemic and the closing of the Canton paper mill, HCC has proven paramount to workforce success. In budgeting for the coming fiscal year, the college has requested an increase in funds from the county commission in order to continue that work.
“In considering these additional investments in education, it helps us to have the capacity to respond in times like these unexpected times that we’re in with the mill closure, continuing to be able to provide a strong workforce for our county and our region,” said Haywood Community College President Shelley White during a presentation to Haywood commissioners. “We’ve seen lives change, we’ve seen folks lifted out of poverty, we’ve seen generational change in having access to education. And we certainly want to continue to provide that.”
Since news broke in March of the impending closure of the Canton paper mill, the college has been hard at work providing job fairs, scholarships and training opportunities for those 1,000 plus mill employees that will be out of work by June. At a May 1 Haywood County Commission meeting, Haywood County Economic Development Director David Francis said White was the second call he made after hearing about the mill closure because he knew how important the college would be for the fallout.
“HCC is a huge asset to our county and our region,” said Commissioner Tommy Long.
Over the past year, the college has been working to expand its workforce and industry training center, also known as the high-tech center. Significant grants through the Department of Labor and the Golden Leaf Foundation have allowed for an increase in short term training at the facility.
The college recently launched a new carpentry construction program alongside plumbing and HVAC training programs at the high-tech center. Over the coming year, HCC has plans to transform the exterior of the location to be able to accommodate CDL truck driver training and electrical line worker training. According to White, HCC is working with Haywood EMC to create the electrical training program which, when finished, would be the only such program west of Caldwell of Cleveland counties.
“I can tell you anecdotally from folks that we’ve talked to with the mill closure, these are the programs they’re very interested in,” White told commissioners. “We were participating in the rapid response a couple weeks ago for about 120 of the mill workers who are going to be losing their jobs and many of them talked about interest in getting a CDL or adding to their machining certifications, picking up an HVAC certification, just rounding out the skill set to help them be more employable as they go on. So particularly these programs have been of interest to th at crowd.”
Commissioner Long said he has seen a similar interest.
“Dr. White I have personally witnessed several people that have said they are very interested in these trade skills from being down there myself,” said Long. “I think your board of trustees have a good grasp on what’s needed, so thank you.”
At a meeting earlier this year, the Haywood County Commission approved $500,000 in ARPA funds for the college which will be used to help transform the high-tech center for the new training programs. HCC plans to go out to bid for the project this summer.
In addition to new training facilities at the high-tech center, Haywood Community College opened its new Health Sciences Education building to students this spring semester. The college has seen a 50% increase in nursing applications for the coming year and expects to have a very large cohort starting classes in the fall.
“Through the support of the county, the Haywood Healthcare Foundation, the state, the NC Connect Bond and private donors and grants that we’ve received, we have some state-of-the-art equipment within that facility that our students here in Haywood County will be able to benefit from,” said White.
The addition of the new building is, at least in part, responsible for the increased funding request from HCC to the county for the 2023-24 fiscal year. The college receives most of its funding from the state, but the county covers operations, capital needs, facilities, maintenance for grounds and safety and security on campus, or about a third of the overall operating budget.
“We know we couldn’t keep the doors open without support from the county, so we certainly continue to appreciate the partnership and support,” said White.
The operating budget request for the 2023-24 fiscal year shows a $317,985 or 9.9% increase over the previous year for a total request of $3.5 million. Of that, more than $1.38 million will go toward employee salaries and benefits, up from $1.33 million the previous year. This section of the budget is increasing to keep up with anticipated state-mandated pay increases.
“We keep those increases in line for fairness across the faculty and staff and we would look forward to giving those should they be awarded by the state,” said White.
The money will also go toward increased security coverage to allow for two campus security officers on site at all times. This will ensure that if one security officer needs to leave to check on another of HCC’s campuses, the main campus will still be covered.
The largest increase in costs comes from maintenance, grounds, safety and other services required for the college.
“With so many things we’re seeing inflation right now and as those contracts are coming in for the coming year, we’re seeing increased service agreement costs. In addition to the new Health Sciences Education building,” said White.
Contracted services are also increasing; custodial services have gone up in price, in addition to having to cover the new health building.
“This also includes the contracted service that we have with the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office to provide the armed resource officer on campus. The officer that is located there also support the Haywood County Early College,” said White.
HCC is also budgeting for increased utility costs. According to White, Duke Energy told the college to expect an increase of 17% in energy costs, on top of the addition of covering the new building which hosts an abundance of high-tech equipment. The school will also have an increase in insurance costs with the addition of the new building.
The community college is also requesting $474,500 from the quarter-cent sales tax revenue from the county. This money will be used for maintenance and grounds equipment, IT staff equipment and minor development projects across the main campus like covered transit shelters and roof repairs to the old millhouse.
Commissioners had only praise and thanks for White.
“Thank you, Dr. White, for the ray of hope that you guys have been especially during the mill closing; on scene right off the bat and very good at helping,” said Commissioner Brandon Rogers.
“The college is a cornerstone of the community, and we see that time and time again when opportunities like what you’re doing with the folks leaving the mill,” said Commissioner Jennifer Best. “I appreciate what the school does.”
Haywood Community College will host a ribbon cutting ceremony for its expanded trail system 10 a.m. to noon, Friday, June 2. The 1-mile wooded trail has been expanded to 3.5 miles of hiking trails throughout the forested areas of campus.