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Casey Christie / The Californian

Kern Community College District Chancellor, Sandra Serrano.

The Kern Community College District board has given Chancellor Sandra Serrano a 9 percent raise following a period in which student costs have been rising and access to classes shrinking.

Under the terms of a new contract effective Sept. 12, she is now earning a base salary of $308,000 a year, up from $282,450 a year in 2009, when her employment contract was last renewed.

The chancellor's salary is determined by looking at administrative compensation rates in similar districts, as well as changes to the California Consumer Price Index and job performance, said Michele Bresso, KCCD's associate vice chancellor, governmental & external relations.

"It's not automatic," she said.

The chancellor's pay increase consists of cost of living adjustments over the last three years of the previous contract and the first year of her new contract, which started on July 1, 2013, and ends June 30, 2016, Bresso said.

KCCD consists of Bakersfield, Porterville and Cerro Coso colleges. The presidents at Porterville and Cerro Coso received raises of about 2 percent each. Cerro Coso Community College President A. Jill Board is earning $180,000 a year and Porterville Community College President Rosa Flores Carlson is earning $190,000 a year.

Bakersfield College President Sonya Christian became BC's 10th president last year. She was hired with a base salary of $180,000 a year under a contract up for renewal in June 2014.

Until the state's voters approved Proposition 30, community colleges across the state had been making painful cuts to cope with reduced state funding.

KCCD was saved from the worst of that because it tapped reserves to cover operating expenses during the economic downturn, but even with reserves and Proposition 30 (which eliminated the need for $8.3 million in additional cuts), its colleges have been tightening their belts.

KCCD's total adopted budget for 2013-14 is $120,919,507, down 6 percent from 129,017,063 in 2008-09, when the economic downturn began.

The California legislature sets community college fees, which are $46 a unit, a $26 per unit increase from 2008.

Also, Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed a new law allowing colleges to charge more for hard-to-obtain, high-demand classes.

To save money, over the last five years KCCD has reduced its class offerings by 22 percent, said KCCD Chief Financial Officer Tom Burke. The colleges cut classes with low enrollment and got rid of courses that didn't earn credit toward an associate's degree or a transfer to a four-year university.

That occasionally led to waiting lists for core courses, delaying graduation for some students.

The district also has had to cut the number of students it could serve. Enrollment at KCCD has fallen about 12 percent to 18,666 since 2008, Burke said.

Those were cuts the state forced on the district, Bresso said. KCCD didn't have a choice.

The Kern Community College District College Association, the union that represents district teachers, has not taken a position on the administrator raises.

But union president Matt Crow, an English teacher at Cerro Coso, said he, personally, hopes the raises are a sign that the district finally has some wiggle room to hike faculty salaries.

Classified and faculty contracts expire in June 2014.

Faculty received small raises twice during the three-year period of the current contract: 0.44 percent in 2012 and 0.22 percent in 2013.

"That didn't even equal increases in the cost of living," Crow said.