A resolution to ratify the Neighborhood Revitalization Program with the City of Augusta was a cause for much discussion at the Butler Community College’s Board of Trustee’s meeting Tuesday evening.

A resolution to ratify the Neighborhood Revitalization Program with the City of Augusta was a cause for much discussion at the Butler Community College’s Board of Trustee’s meeting Tuesday evening.

The revitalization plan, which was first amended in March of 2006, is intended to promote the revitalization of certain areas of the City of Augusta through the rehabilitation, conservation or redevelopment of areas in order to protect public health, safety or welfare of the residents of the city. The program more specifically provides a tax rebate for certain improvements, renovations or construction of properties within the area.

“When Ron Englebrecht and I visited, we began to express some concerns and questions whether there was a dollar cap on the amount of renovations,” said President Kim Krull. “She said they do have a cap of up to 95 percent per project per item which has been submitted for those funds.”

“They do have a dollar amount,” said Secretary Candace Kunkel. “For homes, it’s up to $200,000. Last year when this came to the board, I was actually for that one and I want it to be known that I am not for this at all. Not in Augusta, not Andover, not Rose Hill, not anywhere. Especially if we’re looking at raising the mill levy and we’re going to give tax rebates to people who can afford to build new homes. No way. The mayor of Augusta knows I’m totally against it.”

More trustees began to show concern about the resolution and the finer details of the agreement.

“I did not get a chance to speak to the mayor, but I did speak with the clerk,” Krull said.

“I’m all for revitalization in the areas that need it,” said Kunkel. “But because there is the construction of new homes in this agreement, as a realtor it does not help us to sell these established homes. If people can’t afford to build a new home, it really isn’t going to matter if a person gets a tax credit back after the taxes are already paid. Once the mortgage company pays the taxes for the whole year, then the individual gets that 95 percent back at the end of the year, but it’s bigger than the payment so if they can’t qualify for it, they’re not going to be building a new house anyway. It might be helping Andover and Rose Hill for their realtors and developers, but it doesn’t help the people.”

“The way I understand this the people who would be building newer homes would actually be building where an older home or a blighted area was torn down,” added Krull.

Kunkel went on to more completely explain the program.

“In Augusta, the older areas with the revitalization, there is a tenure program,” explained Kunkel. “If a new home is constructed it will be in place for 10 years. I’m really in favor of that because I believe it can help. With the new construction in the newer areas, it is only five years. If they build a brand new house, for five years they’ll get 95 percent of their property taxes back or if they buy a new house and go in and finish the basement they can apply and receive a credit back on for whatever was spent on the basement. What really occurs, I’ve seen it happen quite a bit in the Rose Hill area, is people have lost their homes because they could not sell them. If you go to an area close by and build a new home, you’ll get that 95 percent tax rebate.What would give you the incentive to buy this older home when you could get a brand new one? It has also hurt a lot of home owners in the newer areas.”

“The one thing I never cared for with this is that it is not all done equally,” commented Trustee Tom McKibban.”Andover has their thing, El Dorado has another and Rose Hill has something completely different. One includes new construction while others don’t. Everyone has a different deal. When we’re looking at mill levy increases and everything else I’m not sure just how much it does help.”

“They have to qualify with what the estimated taxes will be,” said Kunkel. “There’s not a lot of new construction in Augusta, so we’re not really losing that much, but I still don’t think it’s right. Just the principal of it bothers me. Especially now we’re looking at a mill levy increase. We’re increasing taxes for the poor and giving money back to those who can afford new homes.”

The trustees favored the original resolution proposed in 2006.

“This first came in front of us, it gave communities the opportunity to get some of their local contractors back to work,” said McKibban. “It has a positive influence.”

“It was a good thing for a couple years, but for it to just continue on and on year after year, it is no longer beneficial,” added Trustee Jim Wilson.

“It started out as a revitalization and was very specific with some very hard rules, and it turned into this big incentive and that’s where it ran into trouble I think,” said Trustee Chair Ron Englebrecht. “It has turned into somewhat of an arms race.”

The trustees did see some good points in the overall program.

“The revitalization program started out as a good program,” said McKibban. “It takes those blighted areas and helps them.”

“I took the program into consideration when I built my office in downtown Augusta,” explained Kunkel. “I was able to buy a building for $15,000; of course I put $85,000 in it, but I benefitted with the 10-year program. Otherwise I wouldn’t have moved into downtown Augusta. I mean, it’s a horrible location for my business, but it’s saving me $3,000 a year in property taxes. I think we should get clarification before we move forward and approve anything.”

“I’d like to know more,” said Wilson.

Because the agenda was approved before the initial meeting began, the issue of the revitalization program could not be pulled without rejecting the entire consent agenda, pulling it, and resubmitting the agenda.

McKibban moved to reject the original consent agenda and the motion was carried 5-0. Trustee Dr. Greg Joyce moved to table the revitalization program agenda item for another meeting in order to gain some clarification for the board. The motion was carried 5-0. The remaining consent agenda was moved for approval and the motion was carried 5-0.

The trustees also:

• recognized Great Western Dining for their work in campus visitors and hospitality, Michelle Zorn for her 2014 Newman Civic Fellow Award, 2014 Kansas Collegiate Media Awards Conference winners, Loralea Frances for receiving a student commendation, and Janece English, the 2014 DEWEY Award winner.

• approved a resolution to modify EduCare rates with an increase of $0.75.

• approved a resolution outlining the intent to not renew contracts of full-time positions of instructors in the Academic Achievement Center–Susan Balman, Karla Duran and Sonja Milbourn.

• approved a resolution of intent to not renew contracts of full-time instructors of massage therapy department–Sheri Bowersox and Lisa Santiago.

• approved a resolution of intent to not renew contracts of full-time instructors of realtime reporting department–Ellie Davidson.

• approved the BG Products Veteran Sports Complex Lease Addendum, outlining the establishment of a maintenance fund.

• accepted the resignation of Shannon Hurt as director of Athletic Academic Services.

Kari Adams can be reached at kadams@butlercountytimesgazette.com.