The president of Southern Maine Community College is taking steps now to minimize the impact of a possible $552,424 reduction in state funding in the fall.

James Ortiz said Wednesday that four staffed administrative positions have been eliminated — two people resigned and two people laid off — and three vacant support positions won’t be filled.

Ortiz said he also plans to spend a $400,000 surplus from the fiscal year that ended June 30 — an amount that resulted from an enrollment increase on the South Portland campus last year.

“We had hoped to keep that as a cushion. We didn’t expect to use it right away,” Ortiz said. “The difficulty is that, from our perspective, the state’s financial situation isn’t going to change for the next several years. We need to stabilize our finances for this year and into the future.”

Gov. John Baldacci warned earlier this month that he may have to cut $2.3 million from the Maine Community College System if Congress fails to approve $100 million in Medicaid funds for Maine this summer or fall.

The state finished the fiscal year with a $70.4 million surplus, but state law dictates how that money can be used, and officials are uncertain how much will be available to help close the Medicaid gap.

State spending could be curtailed on Oct. 1 if there is no action at the federal level. The largest state agencies would take the biggest cuts, with $40 million coming from schools and $29 million coming from health and human services.

The University of Maine System, Maine Maritime Academy and the community colleges would face a combined reduction of $11 million. UMS officials are preparing budget-cutting proposals that would address their $8.4 million share of a possible curtailment, including $1.9 million at the University of Southern Maine, said spokesman Bob Caswell.

The other community colleges would lose the following amounts: Central Maine, $314,683; Eastern Maine, $325,196; Kennebec Valley, $229,891; Northern Maine, $318, 949; Washington County, $206,130; and York County, $180,195.

Ortiz said that if he waited to hear whether or not SMCC’s appropriation would be reduced, he would have to lay off more people to save the same amount of money due to compensation and benefits paid in the interim.

Moreover, Ortiz said he anticipates tougher financial times ahead, with declining appropriations from the state and employee benefits and utility costs expected to increase 6 percent in the coming year.

“The best thing for us to do is act now,” Ortiz said.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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