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College trustees approve 7% pay raises
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Barton Community College Board of Trustees members Don Learned, left, and Gary Burke listen to a budget presentation Tuesday. Trustees voted unanimously to approve a 2019-2020 operational budget that includes 7 percent raises for all employees. Prior to the meeting, trustees were given the BCC 50th anniversary T-shirts that Learned and Burke are shown wearing. - photo by Susan Thacker

A raise for Barton Community College employees was never in question. The decision before the BCC Board of Trustees was how large the raises will be, and how they will be distributed.

The board voted 6-0 Tuesday to include 7% raises across the board for the 2019-2020 operating budget. Other choices were 5% or 10%, or perhaps a base raise for everyone and a larger raise for employees whose salaries have fallen below the level that is considered a competitive wage for the region.

“It’s a sizable increase over what we’ve done in the past,” Board President Mike Johnson noted. “This size of increase is out of the norm.”

Vice President of Administration Mark Dean presented the options at Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting and said the budget will require dipping into cash reserves but it won’t require increasing the local tax rate. In fact, the board also approved next year’s budget notice, which will appear as a legal notice in the Great Bend Tribune, that estimates next year’s local tax rate will drop to 32.945 mills, compared to this year’s rate of 33.330 mills. Based on valuations provided by the county on June 12, even with the reduced mill levy the college has increased its tax request by approximately $235,000. The valuation increased significantly for utilities as a 10-year exemption was removed from a commercial pipeline.

The BCC Board of Trustees will hold a public budget hearing at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 13, in room F-30, located on the lower level of the Fine Arts Building.

Staying competitive

The college can afford to spend some of its cash reserves, which have been growing for several years, Dean said. At this time last year, the operational budget called for using $1.5 million of those reserves but did not need to. Between expenses cut and revenue raised, the college actually ended up with more money in reserve. This year the college is also expecting to receive more money in state aid.

All of that means the time is right to take care of some items that include deferred projects and keeping salaries competitive. Salaries are at 89 percent of the level that wage surveys claim would be comparable with other employers in the region for similar jobs.

“Dipping into a little bit of our cash reserves is fine,” Dean told the board. The college’s cash reserves are now at 54% of the general fund and Dean said dropping below that won’t affect capital outlay projects this year.

Board member Gary Burke made the motion for a 7% pay increase, noting the need for the college to be able to attract and retain quality employees.

“This has been a problem since I got here — being behind the eight ball in keeping up with the competition,” Burke said, noting this is his fourth year as a trustee. “We still have that fiscal responsibility. My thoughts are that 5 percent is an annual raise; 7% is 2% catchup.”

Burke asked about applying part of the pay increases only to areas where the college is below the target level. That target is represented as 100%, or “market value,” Dean said. But trustee Mike Minton said his preference was 7% across the board. After more discussion, the across-the-board raises were approved by unanimous vote.

Dean said the more the college puts in salaries that are below 100%, the more it closes the gap. But across-the-board raises also help with that problem and reward long-time employees, including those who might stay with no raise at all. Those long-term employees need to be rewarded, too, he said.

“Do we value that experience and that dedication and that know-how?” Dean asked.

Trustee Trish Reiser commented, “I think part of the message is, we really want to show our employees that we value them and we want to keep them.”

Chairman Johnson noted that the unusually large pay increase is an adjustment to approach that 100% target. “We’ve been close before,” he said. “The challenge is keeping up.”

Burke said the trustees are aware of the good job Barton staff have done in keeping expenses down. He also noted that no one should expect another mid-year pay raise, such as occurred last December. The budget a year ago called for a 3.5% increase in the amount budgeted for salaries, but in December trustees approved another 2% raise for anyone who had been at the college since the start of that fiscal year on July 1, 2018. Burke said that won’t happen this December. “We’re not Santa Claus,” he said.

Parking lot

In other business, trustees awarded the contract to repave the south Fine Arts parking lot to the low bidder, Venture Corporation, opting for asphalt rather than concrete. Venture Corporation’s base bid was $154,682 but there are additional costs for items such as soil replacement or stabilization. Dean reported the parking lot is showing major failure areas, which have allowed water drainage to get below the asphalt surface. There will also be curb and guttering and sidewalk work. The project will start on Sept. 16 and is expected to take 26 days. The bid had the latest starting time but concrete work would have taken up to 70 days.

Personnel and insurance

In other business, the board approved the quote from Dissenger Reed for general athletic coverage for the coming academic year, for a total cost of $43,500 and the quote from Harkins for Catastrophic coverage for a total of $5,288. Last year the college was insured by Dissenger Reed for both items and the costs were $40,215 and $8,122, respectively.

The board also approved a contract change for Kathy Kottas, who will move from being the director of the nursing program to being the Dean of Workforce Training & Community Education.

Three new employees were approved. Brandon Smith will be the athletics event auxiliary services manager and assistant sports information director, and Trent Edgerton will become the assistant coach for track and cross country. At the Fort Leavenworth campus, Amanda Kilgore was hired as a customer service representative.

Meeting at a glance

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

• The board adopted an operational budget for 2019-2020 that includes a 7 percent pay increase for all employees.

• The budget notice was approved for publication; it announces the Aug. 13 public budget hearing and asks for an estimated tax rate of 32.945 mills, compared to last year’s actual fate of 33.330 mills.

• The low bid was approved to repave the parking lot located south of the Fine Arts Building. Venture Corporation won with a base bid of $154,682 for asphalt, with additional costs that include soil replacement or stabilization.

• The board heard reports on contingency planning and the strategic plan.

• New personnel and athletic insurance were both approved.

• The board held a 30-minute executive session with Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman to discuss the performance of an employee.

• The president’s contract was on the agenda but was tabled and will be considered at the Aug. 13 meeting along with the budget hearing.