Mike Johnson and Mike Minton will return to the Barton Community College Board of Trustees for another term, and they will be joined by Bob Mead. All were winners in Tuesday’s election, according to the unofficial results released by the Barton County Clerk’s Office.
William “Brett” Middleton chose not to seek another term as a college trustee. Brock R. McPherson was also a candidate for the three at-large positions.
All four candidates are Great Bend residents.
Johnson received 1,770 votes, or 30.48 percent of the total.
Minton received 1,520 votes, for 26.17 percent of the total.
Mead received 1,372 votes, for 23.62 percent of the total.
McPherson received 1,137 votes, for 19.58 percent of the total. There were nine write-in votes.
Johnson is finishing his fourth term on the Barton Board of Trustees, and is chairman of the board. As the polls were closing Tuesday, he was enjoying a bicycle ride. Later, he spoke to the Great Bend Tribune about being elected to another term and the challenges facing the board.
“The uncertainty of the budget is really critical,” Johnson said. The board is working on next year’s budget now, but won’t know what to expect in state aid until May or June. Based on budget cuts and the drop in Barton County valuations, Johnson said the board is anticipating a budget shortfall of $1.2 million or more.
“We’re really mindful of the mill levy,” Johnson said, adding the trustees will do everything in their power to keep it as close to the current tax rate as possible. Fortunately, BCC has seen steady growth for several years, becoming the fourth largest community college in the state. That means it has a healthy amount of reserve funds tucked away. “Times like this are what reserves are for,” he said.
The college will also increase its tuition next fall to help mitigate the budget shortfall.
“The college is very sound financially. We’ll get it handled,” Johnson said.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be cuts. “Any program not directly associated with education of the students is going to be under scrutiny.”
Barton Community College also tries to remain competitive on wages, Johnson said. The college was “a little behind on wages” a few years ago and in the last couple of years was able to give raises and become more competitive. But there will be no raises this year, Johnson said.
However, “other community colleges are in the same boat we’re in.”
Johnson said he was pleased that fellow board member Mike Minton was reelected, and said the thinks newcomer Bob Mead will do a good job, as candidate Brock McPherson would, had he been elected.
Minton agreed that his second term as a trustee may be more challenging than the first, because of financial constraints.
“Due to a number of circumstances, there will be a lot of tough decision to make in the future,” Minton said. “There are some great programs at the college – great staff and leadership. Overcoming the budget deficit will be difficult.”
Minton said he looks forward to working with Mead, and added, “I’m flattered that the community wants me to continue working with the board, and I look forward to doing so.”
A former Kansas legislator in the House of Representatives from 1987-1994, Mead was then appointed by the governor to serve as acting secretary of health and environment, and he later served on the Kansas Parole Board. However, he’s been retired for the last 15 years, and said he looks forward to returning to public service.
“I’m going to go in as an admitted newcomer,” Mead said, adding he’s eager to learn about the programs, administration and funding of Barton Community College. “I don’t have an agenda,” he said. “I put my hat in the ring to give people a choice.”
McPherson said he would like to serve but is glad his candidacy at least afforded voters a choice. He knows the board will have some tough decisions to make.
“I’m concerned about the money being taken away by the state,” he said, adding he hopes that doesn’t mean there won’t be money to maintain the BCC swimming pool. The pool, including the ceiling above it, are in need to expensive repairs. “Hopefully they can come up with funds so kids and Scouts can continue to use it. It all boils down to the funding they need.”