Yosemite Community College District trustees will continue discussing two key items next month -- whether to buy The Modesto Bee building and nearby parking lot in downtown and whether to renew the contract of Modesto Junior College's president.
For two hours Wednesday night, trustees talked about both in closed session but took no action on either. They'll pick up the issues at their next meeting.
Former Modesto Mayor Carmen Sabatino spoke during public comment, urging trustees not to purchase The Bee's building. He said the county would lose $229,000 in property taxes if the district became landlord of the 156,000-square-foot building.
Sabatino urged the board to reconsider and build on MJC's West Campus to provide much-needed jobs and build energy-efficient offices. He concluded by saying that the district should not be "bailing out" The Bee.
Trustee Tom Hallinan told Sabatino the purchase was not a done deal, but it could save taxpayers money because the district wouldn't be spending money on construction.
Board President Anne DeMartini noted that the county keeps 11 percent of property taxes.
But Trustee Abe Rojas told Sabatino, "I wholeheartedly agree with you."
The two-story Bee building and parking lot have been for sale since January with a list price of $7 million to $8 million. It would serve as headquarters of the YCCD and would be funded through the district's $326 million school bond if the purchase goes through.
MJC President Richard Rose's contract has been up in the air for most of the 2008-09 school year as he has faced accusations of ignoring staff input in key academic and construction decisions. He is applying for positions at other community colleges.
On the financial side, trustees approved a tentative budget for 2009-10 that includes a decline of more than $12 million in revenue. The total budget is estimated at $115 million.
Officials are trying not to be "too optimistic or overly conservative," said Teresa Scott, executive vice chancellor of fiscal services.
While the 2009-10 tentative budget shows some leftover money, the district would be in the hole by $6.3 million for the 2010-11 fiscal year if things remain the same.
Officials reminded trustees the budget was not final and was prepared "with no finite data from the state," Scott said. The state has yet to close a $24 billion budget deficit.
Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2339.