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Linn-Benton Community College is moving to eliminate its horticulture program and several positions in the face of diminished state funding and to balance the school’s budget.

The announcement went out to the campus community Friday afternoon.

LBCC President Greg Hamann laid out the budget reductions, calling for the elimination of five classified staff positions through a combination of retirement and reduction-in-force. Two faculty positions will also be eliminated, though one is currently vacant and the other is a trial-service position that will not be refilled.

Due to accreditation requirements and what Hamann described as a commitment to current students, the horticulture program will not be cut in the 2019-2020 school year but is expected to be eliminated the following year.

LBCC's executive director of institutional advancement, Jennifer Boehmer, said the horticulture program has stopped accepting new students but currently enrolled students will be able to complete their degrees if they take the necessary courses on schedule.

Sterling Guijar, the current Horticulture Club president, enrolled in the LBCC program last fall. She said she was shocked when she received an email this week informing her of the decision.

“I thought, 'How could this happen?'" she said. "I had trouble sleeping that night.”

Guijar said she works two jobs and can only take one class at a time, so she was unsure when she expected to complete her degree.

“As necessary as they may be, anytime we find ourselves needing to utilize personnel reductions as part of our budget balancing strategy, these actions are unavoidably painful to all of us in general and to those most directly impacted by these reductions in particular,” Hamann wrote in the message sent out to the campus community detailing the cuts.

The Legislative Fiscal Office recommended to the state Legislature a $590 million funding level for community colleges. Hamann said that figure causes a shortfall of $2.1 million to $2.2 million for the next biennium.

LBCC previously announced a 7 percent increase in tuition to help balance the budget.

In discussing possible program elimination, Hamann previously said the administration considered the popularity of the program and its ability to serve available jobs in the community.

The announcement notes that LBCC will be adding three new faculty positions — one in welding, one in nursing and one in biology — and two new classified positions, one in welding and the other in math. Two positions (a vice president for student affairs and a department manager) position will be “substantially restructured” and classified at a lower level, Hamann said.

"This month has not been just about money,” Hamann wrote in his monthly message for March. “While our financial ‘means’ may be a limitation, it is not the determinant of our direction. Instead, it is our mission and purpose that we serve in our communities that we ‘consult’ in setting our course and in allocating our limited resources to our pursuit of that course.”

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