FARMINGTON — The San Juan College board on Tuesday approved a proposed $55.9 million budget for the upcoming school year, as well as changes to the student fee structure and increases to non-residents' tuition rate.

The budget board members approved is nearly the same as last year's budget, which was also about $55.9 million. The most recent budget includes about $18,000 more than the previous budget.

Staff raises and health insurance account for the additional dollars in the 2014-2015 budget, Vice President for Administrative Services Russell Litke said.

"Overall, we made some cuts here and there," Litke said. "There were increases in revenue, and some of that comes from the state, some from (oil and gas) production tax and projected increases to revenue in changes to tuition and fees."

About $1.7 million in salary increases will be added into the college's budgets over the next two years. About $868,000 will be added to the budget for the 2014-2015 school year.

Increases in health insurance costs added about $960,000 to the budget.

The board also voted Tuesday to increase tuition for non-residents.

The rate for non-residential students will increase by $18 to $123 per credit hour. The residential tuition rate of $41 a credit hour will remain the same.

Starting next year, the general student fee, the technology fee and the student activity fee will be rolled into one flat fee determined by residency and the number of credit hours, Litke said.

A resident student with four or fewer credit hours will pay $77.50 in fees, compared to $59 this year. Resident students with five or more credit hours will play $155 next year, up from $118 this year.

Non-residents taking four or fewer credits hours will pay a $137.50 fee, while those taking five or more credit hours will pay $275. This year, those same students paid $103 and $206, respectively.

About 84 percent of students pay residential tuition and 16 percent pay non-residential tuition, said Rhonda Schaeffer, a college spokeswoman.

Litke said changes to the fee structure were made to simplify the system and encourage students to finish their degrees quickly by taking more credit hours.

"It's not a big increase for any student, we feel," Litke said.

Litke said full-time students taking 12 credit hours or more will see a reduction in fees because of the flat rate.

The college received about $25.1 million — about $1 million more than last year — from the New Mexico Higher Education Department for the upcoming school year. Portions of the state funds are earmarked for paying salaries and employee retirement.

The college received $24.1 million in state appropriations for the current school year.

During the budgeting process, all college departments were asked to cut operating expenses by 3.5 percent on non-payroll items, including supplies and travel, Litke said.

With the sale of the Navajo Mine to the Navajo Transitional Energy Company and the closure of three units at the Four Corners Power Plant, Litke said the college budgeted for about a $725,000 reduction in revenue from property taxes.

"In the scale of the budget, it's not necessarily that much, but it's a large amount of money we have to take into consideration when we are budgeting," Litke said.

For the last three years, the college has seen a drop in credit hours and enrollment in the spring semester. For the current spring 2014 semester, enrollment dropped 1.6 percent, and student credit hours declined 3.9 percent over the spring 2013 semester.

Litke said the increases in non-residential tuition and changes in the student fee structure were related to the increase in operational costs, not the drop in enrollment and credit hours.

The college must submit its budget for approval to the state Higher Education Department by May 1.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.