“I will share everything I know with you today,” Watts said. “I do not have all of the answers today about what happened, nor do I know all the steps we will take to fix things.”
Watts started his speech by reminding the audience that he has spent almost half of his career at GPC.
“I care deeply about this college; I care deeply about its mission to provide access to a college education for students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend college,” he said. “And I care deeply about the people who work here to achieve that mission.”
Georgia Perimeter’s mission is uniquely American, Watts explained.
“It reflects our American values,” he said. “Looking outward to the community, not inward to the cloister. Inclusive, not exclusive. Affordable, flexible and the opportunity for second, third and fourth chances in life.”
Watts described GPC as the “Hartsfield-Jackson of the university system. It is a departure point of students, a final destination and an enormous transfer hub. It keeps the University System fluid.”
Watts explained that GPC has a deficit of about $16 million. Watts indicated that in fiscal year 2013, the college must make budget reductions to eliminate the continuing deficit.
Watts said he does not know how the deficit was created in the first place. A team of internal auditors from the Board of Regents is there currently, and a team from the State Audit Office is expected in the near future, he said.
In the meantime, Ron Stark has been named Vice President for Fiscal Affairs and a new Associate Vice President for Fiscal Affairs will join Stark. A new comptroller was named March 15 and a new budget officer began working for the college May 1.
“We are putting a financial staff in place to fix what’s wrong and do things right in the future,” Watts said.
The future will not only include a new financial team, but reductions at the college to erase the deficit, Watts said.
Watts said he is keeping four principles in mind as he considers what action to take. According to Watts, no campuses will close, thereby assuring access to a quality education for students.
Second, Watts said he will focus on the core teaching mission and protect the classroom, including de-partments that affect students, such as financial aid, facilities management and student life among others.
“Everyone here is a teacher in his or her own way,” he said. “Our students take away a lesson every time they encounter one of us.”
Third, he assured the audience that he would not take short-term action that would cause long-term damage. Fourth, he hopes to minimize the impact of reductions on faculty and staff.
“I said ‘minimize’ because there will be an impact,” Watts explained. “More than 90 percent of the cost of running the college is represented in this room — personnel. The college cannot simply tighten its belt to reach $25 million.”
Watts said he has made no decisions yet about how to reduce the deficit. He vowed to have an outline of a plan to staff and faculty soon.
“You will have my best effort this year to lead the college through the most difficult time in its almost 50-year history and back into financial balance, positioned for a better way forward,” Watts said.