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BCC plans tax cut to maintain flat mill levy

Barton Community College officials said they plan to hold the mill levy steady, as they have for the past decade, by requesting fewer tax dollars for the next year.

The BCC Board of Trustees looked at budgets during a study session on Tuesday, July 14. Both the operational budget and the published budget for 2020-2021 were discussed. Once approved, the “published budget” will appear as a legal notice in a future edition of the Great Bend Tribune. It will include a notice of a public hearing on Aug. 11 and an estimated tax rate of 32.96 mills. The actual tax rate for 2019-2020 was 33.077 mills and the rate for 2019-2019 was 33.33 mills.

The proposed budget asks for $8,723,340 to be levied, which is $446,303 less than the $9,169,643 levied last year. In 2018-2019, the total tax levied was $8,891,744.

The proposed published budget keeps the mill levy at approximately the same value, which in turn decreases the tax request by approximately $446,303, according to materials provided to the board by Vice President of Administration Mark Dean. The county valuation decreased significantly because of major decreases in oil/gas, as well as decreases for personal property and utilities. The mill levy request is based on the valuation estimate provided by the County on June 15, which was $264,664,428.

The assessed valuation in 2019-2020 was $276,722,072 and in 2018-2019 it was $266,312,260.

Published vs. operational budget

Vice President Dean said the published budget typically includes a cushion in case the college has unexpected expenses. That’s why the total for actual expenditures and transfers was about $41.2 million in 2018-2019 and $43.3 million last year, but the proposed total for 2020-2021 is published as $60.4 million.

The inflated estimate serves as a budget cap that allows the college flexibility, Dean said. If the college published a proposal that was closer to the actual amount spent last year and then needed to go over that amount, the trustees would have to republish the budget and it would again be subject to a public protest period. Colleges that exceed their published budgets may also be subject to a penalty in the future, he said.

However, Dr. Blake Flanders, the president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Board of Regents, has asked schools to bring this part of their published budgets more in line with actual expenditures, Dean said. “He thinks the public looks at it and thinks we’re actually going to spend (that amount).”

The $60.4 million budgeted this year would have been higher in previous years, Dean said. “We have come down some,” he said. “We’ve dropped from $110 million.”

The operational budget was also discussed earlier this year when the trustees looked at salaries. This budget decreases revenue by approximately $850,000 and decreases expenditures by approximately $2,443,000 over last year’s operational budget. It was developed assuming a 1% reduction in enrollment credit hours.

The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to potential challenges to plan for.

Other topics discussed during Tuesday’s BCC study session were the June financial statement, athletic insurance, Kansas Board of Regents Strategic Plan, Title IX guidelines, Corrections programming and “Cougar Driven,” the plan for the fall semester.

Mill levy history

Barton Community College has released its mill levy history from 2007 to the current proposed published budget. “The board (of trustees) has maintained a relatively level mill levy,” college officials said. Slight fluctuations occur due to using the estimated valuations during the published budget process, as well as pending oil and real estate exemptions that may or may not be approved after the budget is completed.

Currently, $118,189 in oil and gas exemptions are pending, waiting for a decision with the Court of Tax Appeals.

Tax year/Mill levy

2007 /33.498

2008/ 32.604

2009/ 32.659

2010/ 32.807

2011/ 32.771

2012/ 32.713

2013/ 32.798

2014/ 33.124

2015/ 33.090

2016/ 33.258

2017/ 33.219

2018/ 33.330

2019/ 33.077

2020/ 32.960