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BCC trustees approve salary increases, lower mill levy
BCC mill levy to drop
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Barton Community College employees will receive at least 8% in pay raises for the next year, based on an operational budget approved Tuesday by the Board of Trustees. The board also approved publishing a budget that requires the same amount of tax dollars collected last year.

Vice President of Administration Mark Dean said the published budget estimates the tax rate will be 30.951 mills, a drop of 2.142 mills from last year. That is the Revenue Neutral Rate (RNR), which means the revenue raised will be virtually the same as last year. 

The mill levy will be lower because the county clerk’s office has estimated that valuations will increase.

Operational budget

Two budgets were approved at Tuesday’s meeting. The first is the Fiscal Year 23 operational budget. Assuming the college does not exceed the RNR and that enrollment doesn’t increase, this budget increases revenue by $1,666,288 and increases expenditures by $1,126,652.

In the 2021-22 budget, the college anticipated an end-of-year balance of -$1,861,163, with the difference coming from cash reserves. The balance for the year ending June 30 was actually +$1,499,039.

BCC ended FY 22 with a carryover of almost $1.5 million. This was mostly due to:

• Unfilled positions due to the challenges of hiring faculty and staff.

• Federal money from CARES (the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) and HEERF (the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, which is also part of CARES) that offset eligible expenditures and that also offset the loss of revenue from tuition, housing, the bookstore, campus safety and nurse expenses.

• The fact that lower enrollment resulted in reduced salaries, benefits and operational expenses.

Trustees were shown how much it would cost to provide 4%, 6%, or $8% pay increases, and voted unanimously for the 8% raises. Dean said that some employees who are making below the “market value” for comparable job positions may see even more than 8%.

Trustees discussed why higher wages are needed.

Trustee Gary Burke commented that raising salaries will help the college fill vacant positions.

“Anything we do is going to affect everything next year,” he said. “We are in a nice position with the (cash) reserves that we have but we need to be aware of the ripple effect of what we do.”

However, he said, “We’re short-staffed. Sooner or later our product is going to suffer. Our product is education. ... Let’s get up to fair market value.”

Trustee Don Learned said the administration’s recommendation of 6% raises wasn’t enough, and moved for the 8% increase. “Eight percent would really bring a boost to staff and attract young people. I think we can afford 8%,” he said. “I’m concerned with the growth of the college.”

Board Chairman Mike Johnson said the college uses conservative estimates when it builds its budget, so it typically prepares for a possible deficit that will need to be made up from cash reserves. However, most years the college hasn’t actually had to dip into its reserves.

With 8% pay increases, the budget anticipates a deficit in next year’s ending balance of $1,321,527.

“We’ve built a budget many years based on a deficit budget,” Johnson said. “I think it’s prudent to do it that way. That’s what the reserves are for.” To Dean he said, “You’ve built the budget with the taxpayer in mind.”

Trustees remarked that BCC has struggled to keep up with market value for years. Burke said it was time to get over the hump.

“I think it’s time to do more than we have in the past and catch up,” he said, seconding the motion by Learned for 8% raises.

The motion passed unanimously.

Published budget

Next, the trustees approved the published budget, which will appear in the Great Bend Tribune as a legal notice and will announce BCC’s budget hearing is set for 4 p.m. on Aug. 23. It includes a reduction in the mill levy by 2.142 mills, which in theory should raise the same amount of tax dollars as last year.

Barton County’s estimated valuation increased this past year by approximately $19 million, mainly due to increases in real estate and oil/gas valuations. Dean said the mill levy request is based on the valuation number provided by the County on June 21.

The estimated mill levy will be 30.951, compared to last year’s tax rate of 33.093 mills. That should raise just over $9 million, which is virtually the same amount raised last year.

Learned expressed displeasure that the college has to be locked into a tax rate before the actual valuations are known. The June 21 number is only an estimate.

“It’s crazy to set the budget before we know the valuation,” Learned said. “Are people in Topeka not concerned about that?”

“That’s the way it’s written into the law,” Dean said.