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VP Dean: BCC is in ‘really good’ financial shape
Mill levy expected to drop slightly
Mark Dean BCC 2019
Vice President of Administration Mark Dean presents budget information to the Barton Community College Board of Trustees at the July 9 study session. - photo by Susan Thacker

Barton Community College’s Vice President of Administration Mark Dean told trustees Tuesday he recommends pay increases and spending some money on unique capital outlay items such as a new boiler. Dean said the college is in “really good” shape financially.

Dean made his financial report and talked about next year’s budget Tuesday at a BCC Board of Trustees study session. Next month, trustees will be asked to approve a budget for publication and schedule a public budget hearing. They’ll also be asked to approve the actual operational budget.

Dean said the college planned to dip into cash reserves when last year’s operational budget was crafted but instead ended up with nearly $1.4 million more revenue. State aid is also going up. So, he’ll be suggesting a 5% increase in the salary budget and some other requests for facilities.

“Some of these things are one-time projects that need to be taken care of,” he said. That includes replacing the 50-year-old backup boiler. “There may be more things like the boiler project we’ve been sitting on for years.”

Other administrators have requested additional money for athletics, academic planning, student support and a $100,000 marketing initiative.

Although Dean had tentatively budgeted $700,000 for a 5% salary budget increase, the trustees Tuesday asked him to bring three estimates to the next board meeting: for 5%, 7% and 10%. No matter how much the increase, not all of it would come from the general fund budget because grants pay all or part of some salaries. And none of this will require an increase in the mill levy.

Staying competitive

Last December, Dean calculated it would take $1.3 million in pay increases to bring all of the college salaries on par with what competitors pay for similar positions. According to Compease, a company that does salary comparisons, Barton salaries are at 89%, or 11% short of matching the competitive benchmark.

“We’re in the ballpark,” Dean said of salaries paid at Barton compared to Hutchinson, Garden City and Butler County community colleges. But school districts in Barton and Russell counties, for example, pay more. And even when the college is successful in hiring someone, Dean said, they may not stay long. “They get a job but they’re still looking.” 

Salaries are one of the top concerns when it comes to finding and retaining qualified employees, according to Dean and Julie Knoblich, the college’s director of human resources.

However, in a report on employee demographics, Knoblich said other workforce challenges include location, fewer quality candidates, competition, an aging workforce, and the effects of technology because today’s jobs are more complex. 

Trustee Gary Burke said the wage gap is a problem the trustees talk about every year.

“We need to bring the salaries in line with where the competitive market is,” he said. “... but that money has to come from somewhere.” 

Board President Mike Johnson said the problem of finding good employees isn’t unique to the college in this time of low unemployment. “It’s a problem everywhere, not just here,” he said.

“I do think the wages, by and large, are competitive,” Johnson said.

Board member Trish Reiser said Great Bend USD 428, where she is an administrator, also struggles to recruit qualified people.

Dean said the college does have other things to offer, including benefits. But when it comes to prospective employees, he said, “they’re looking at their current paycheck and what their paycheck will be if they come to Barton.”

No local tax increase

Tuesday’s study session also included a look at the budget summary the college will publish in the Great Bend Tribune. This legal publication is required by law at will give notice of a public budget hearing at 4 p.m. on August 14 at the college.

Dean said the proposed budget reduces last year’s mill levy from 33.330 to an estimated 32.945 mills, levying $9.1 million for the general fund. Even though the proposed published budget reduces the mill levy, it increases the tax request by approximately $235,000. This is because the valuation increased significantly for utilities when a 10-year exemption was removed from a commercial pipeline. The mill levy estimate is based on the valuation provided by Barton County on June 12.

Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman reminded the board that the college has kept the tax rate below 33.5 mills since 2007. This has been the case even when decreases in valuation resulted in the college collecting less tax money.

Meeting at a glance

Here’s a quick look at topics discussed at the July 9 study session of the Barton Community College Board of Trustees. The agenda and links to materials can be found online at

• A report on employee demographics was presented by Julie Knoblich, director of human resources.

• A financial report was presented by Vice President of Administration Mark Dean, who also handled other finance-related presentations.

• Athletic insurance information was presented.

• The budget to be published before the public budget hearing was reviewed. The college plans to reduce its local tax rate by an estimated 0.385 mills next year.

• Dean talked about next year’s proposed operational budget and things that affect it, including salaries, state funding and Kansas laws.

• Event planning to celebrate Barton’s 50th anniversary was presented by Coleen Cape, executive director of institutional advancement.