The Barton Community College Board of Trustees won’t need a mill levy increase get more money from local taxpayers next year. At the board study session held Tuesday, Vice President of Administration Mark Dean explained that valuations are up, especially for oil. Last year’s tax rate of 33.26 mills raised $8.03 million, but this year an estimated rate of 33.15 mills could raise $8.53 million.
Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman said he believes the college has held the mill levy steady for 10 years in a row. Although there have been minor increases, these were due to the actual amount of tax money raised; the board has not intentionally asked for a higher mill levy in a decade, Heilman said.
This time of year, college trustees look at two budgets. One, the “operational budget,” looks at anticipated revenue and expenses. The “published budget” sets maximum spending limits and the total amount requested from local taxpayers. The board will vote to publish a budget at its July 25 meeting and will schedule a public budget hearing.
As they discussed the operational budget, trustees were given a choice of budgeting for 2 or 4 percent pay increases for employees.
“I like the 4 percent,” trustee Don Learned said. “It just tears me up that our staff make less than (employees at Great Bend Unified School District) 428.”
“We’ve had this conversation for years,” Board Chairman Mike Johnson said. Johnson and Dean said pay is not the only issue that prospective employees consider.
“When an individual comes in they have to look at the total package,” Dean said. “We have good benefits.”
Heilman said the administration make a conscious decision to uphold the quality of its product “without going to the taxpayers, laying off or taking away benefits.”
“We’ve done a very good job of being stewards of the taxpayers’ money,” Johnson said. “So I’m totally in favor, completely in favor of the salary increase.”
Dipping into reserves
Dean said last year the college budgeted for $31.4 million in revenue, but actual revenue was only $30 million. However, the budget anticipated $33.3 million in expenditures and only $29.1 million was spent.
So, while the college anticipated using cash reserves last year, “we carried over $1.1 million,” Dean said. “It ended up being a good year.”
With that in mind, the administration has proposed a budget that may need to rely on $1.4 million from cash reserves.
“We can afford to take the chance,” Dean said. “We can afford to use this (reserve money) if we need to use it.”
Following the study session the board held a special meeting. There was a 20-minute executive session and Heilman was with the board for the last 10 minutes of the session. The reason for the closed meeting was to discuss a personnel matter. Asked what the subject of the discussion was, Heilman said it was “to discuss an individual employee’s performance.”