More concerning taxes and Butler Community College
Have you ever been to a budget hearing? If the answer is no, you’re not alone. Most people don’t ever protest a taxpayer-funded budget.
On August 14, something amazing happened. Taxpayers supporting the Fair Funding Initiative packed the small Butler Community College board room to protest the 2018-19 budget. During the hearing, taxpayers including myself, asked the seven-member Board of Trustees to permanently reduce our mill levy by five mills. The requested five-mill reduction would take our current 20 mills to 15 mills and allow taxpayers to keep $3.5 million more of their own dollars.
The Board said no. After closing the public hearing, the Board promptly voted 7-0 passing their budget which included a 25% spending increase. The attendees were assured by Board that they ‘were listening.’ But as everyone knows – there’s a big difference between listening and hearing.
Before the final vote, 15 people voiced their budget concerns. Of the 15 people who spoke during the meagerly-allotted two-minutes-per-person hearing (which is yet another example of choosing ‘not to listen’ to public opinion), 11 people spoke in favor of fair funding and a mill levy reduction. Only four spoke in favor of status quo – no taxpayer relief. Of the four speaking in favor of not lowering taxes were the following: one former BCC student who lives in Sedgwick County, one BCC employee, one former BCC attorney, and one man from El Dorado.
One very alert taxpayer, while using her two minutes to make a public comment, noted that a trustee had fallen asleep during the hearing. Though it seems almost humorous, this scene provides a quick allegory of where things stand with BCC. Taxpayers are beginning to voice their frustrations and are alert to the unfairness of the current funding methods. Meanwhile, the trustees are still asleep, stuck in a continuous loop of not being able to do something, anything at all, until ‘next time.’
Though the Board would not lower our taxes, they did say they would ‘study the issue’ when they had more time. Really? Study the issue?
Here’s the deal – if you asked the public to vote on this issue today, the results would be overwhelmingly in favor of reducing our mill levy permanently by 5 mills and increasing out-of-county tuition by $25 per credit hour. It’s just the right thing to do. No study is needed to do the right thing.
Notice to the Trustees: we do NOT need a study to calculate fair and reasonable funding. A study is not needed to calculate the following:
1) Butler County taxpayers will pay almost $1 million more in tax dollars to BCC this year compared to last year – that’s a built-in pay raise for BCC due to the increased assessed valuation.
2) Reducing our mill levy by 5 mills would cost $3.5 million. Adding $25/credit hour to out- of-county students would generate approximately the same revenue. If not that solution, $3.5 million could easily be taken from cash carryover balances that grow every year while still maintaining well above their desired threshold fund balance.
3) Butler County taxpayers paid over $14 million in taxes last year. In return, our Butler County students received a savings of $418,000 from getting only an $11 break in tuition. If you do the math, $14 million in taxes minus $418,000 in savings = a bad deal for in-county students and taxpayers.
4) BCC trustees voted March 2018 to raise student tuition and fees by $8 for all students. The Trustees gave the greatest rate of increase to our in-county students. If you lived in Butler County, your tuition went up 8%. If you lived out-of-county, it went up 7%. If you lived out of State, you saw a 5% increase, while out-of-country students had a 4% increase. Again, the math shows the Trustees have put everyone else BEFORE Butler County students and taxpayers.
5) Since requests for lowering our mill levy began, BCC has increased tuition, increased spending in their recently-passed budget, proposed spending $13 million on a new Andover facility that will be very convenient for 60% of BCC’s enrollees driving from Wichita, and also was handed a ‘cease and desist’ letter from the Board of Regents for their attempt to spend $4 million on a Wichita Culinary School without permission. This list of increases illustrate the Trustees actions are counter to anything most would consider ‘listening.’
6) BCC is our County’s largest employer. But did you know 60% of those employees do NOT live in our county? BCC says they have almost a $400 million economic impact. Well, again the math speaks for itself. If 60% of BCC’s students commute from Sedgwick County and 60% of BCC’s employees do not live in Butler County – the benefits will most certainly be 60% less than stated.
Bottomline: After months of asking our Trustees to lower our taxes and find alternative funding streams – they said no. They didn’t just say no, they said yes to the exact opposite – more spending. I’m pretty sure they are NOT listening.
Sadly, the allegory seems all too real – the taxpayers are awake and the Trustees remain asleep. Maybe they can commission a study that helps them ‘wake up.’ Until then, the Fair Funding Initiative will continue to promote proportional funding for Butler County taxpayers.
Contact Kansas Representative Kristey Williams (R-District 77) at 785-296-3971 or Email her at : firstname.lastname@example.org.