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BCC adapts to new reality
College anticipates hit to FY 21 budget
BCC zoom with Michelle Kaiser
Assistant Dean of Information Services Michelle Kaiser speaks to Barton Community College President Dr. Carl Heilman (seated, at left) and other BCC trustees on Tuesday. Others joined the meeting via Zoom and saw this scene on their screens.

Meeting at a glance

Here’s a quick look at Tuesday’s meetings of the Barton Community College Board of Trustees:

• A special meeting was held at 4 p.m. The board met in executive session for 25 minutes for discussion of personnel. The meeting was adjourned and was followed by the monthly board study session.

• Vice President of Administration Mark Dean presented the March Financial Statement.

• Vice President Dean presented the Fiscal Year 2021 preliminary budget assessment.

• Vice President of Instruction Elaine Simmons presented the faculty contract review list. Fourteen faculty members whose contracts are up for renewal are on tenure track; six are eligible to be granted tenure if their contracts are renewed; 49 tenured faculty are up for contract renewal; and nine faculty contracts are in the non-renewal category. Reasons for non-renewal: two resignations, three position changes, and four retirements.

• Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman asked for administrators to report on the college’s COVID-19 response.

At this time of year, the Barton Community College Board of Trustees typically begins looking at the next year’s budget, knowing that estimates of enrollment, state aid and tax revenue are only preliminary. College trustees received that budget report on Tuesday, knowing that 2020 is anything but typical.

Vice President of Administration Mark Dean said expenses are down but so is revenue. College officials are just starting to learn what kind of federal relief may be available. Overall, the early estimates show expenditures exceeding revenue by almost $1.9 million for Fiscal Year 21.

To make up the difference, the college may have to tap into its reserves.

This assumes a 1% reduction in credit hours, offset somewhat by the increases in fees, out-of-state tuition and international tuition previously approved by trustees. It also assumes a $558,836 decrease in taxes due to lower valuation of oil and gas.

Dean listed five potential challenges to plan for:

• Reduction in residence hall occupancy this fall.

• Reduced collection of property taxes. Barton typically collects about 95% of the taxes levied. Speculation is that tax revenue collections may be short up to 15% due to unemployment.

• Decreased on-campus enrollment for the summer and fall.

• With additional challenges in the state funding, the state aid provided to higher education may be decreased.

Expenses will be cut by deferring capital outlay projects. Money will be saved on salaries and benefits due to canceled positions, retirements, and positions that are hired at a lower rate. Also, there was be a “zero increase” to the base salary budget. 

No department went without budget cuts, Dean said.

“We won’t be purchasing vehicles, doing anything with parking lots or construction or remodeling of any type. All of that kind of stuff is gone from (next year's budget).”

Dean concluded, “We’ll know more next month. Right now there’s still a lot of guesswork.”

Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman told the board, “I try to remain optimistic,” but as a pragmatist he concluded the coming months will be challenging.

COVID-19 response

“Quite a bit is occurring,” Heilman said, before asking a handful of administrators to report on Barton’s COVID-19 response. He said things are “going well,” thanks to the hard work of many people.

Reporting on administrative services, Dean said the college has been processing refunds for students who chose to leave student housing but some students left without telling anyone. “If they check out properly (the refunds) are assessed.” Refunds are costing around $300,000. There are a few refunds to students who are unable to complete their coursework under the new format, “but the vast majority are housing refunds.”

Most of the staff are working off-campus or staying in their offices. Although this is a “very minimal number of people on campus,” there may be 40-50 people there at any time.

The cafeteria is open and will stay open as long as there are students on campus.

Trustee Gary Burke asked what has been done about students’ personal belongings left on campus.

“Some items have been boxed up,” Dean said. Staff are attempting to contact those students to learn if they’ll be back in the fall or if items need to be shipped to them. It can be confusing if students were sharing a room. 

Zoom and other technology

Assistant Dean of Information Services Michelle Kaiser talked about the use of Zoom for meetings and classes.

“Zoom has been under a lot of scrutiny lately,” Kaiser said. The company has been working through some security issues while growing rapidly during the pandemic. Stories in the news about “Zoom bombing” – where hackers take over a Zoom meeting – capture a lot of attention. Hackers have flashed pornographic material onto the screens of unwitting Zoom users, and greater security risks may exist.

However, Kaiser said, Zoom has been addressing issues as they arise and “Zoom has been very transparent.”

Barton’s IT department has been assisting users who are new to the technology and keeping up with Zoom’s updates. She told trustees to keep in mind that any other platform the college might use for linking people from remote locations to one virtual meeting space could face the same type of threats from hackers. Overall, “Zoom is the easiest to use, by far.”