Fair Funding is pro-Butler County growth and pro-common sense
Education is a wonderful thing. It has the power to elevate and free individuals from their circumstances. Education has been my life’s passion as a daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter of teachers; a former public school teacher who loved her job and her students; and a mother of four – all currently in public school or college. Having a quality education is central among my core values.
As a lifelong Butler County resident, a former student of Butler (County) Community College, the sibling of three other Butler (County) Community College attendees, and the daughter of a former BCCC instructor -- I appreciate and believe in the role of affordable education and the economic benefit BCC provides.
Education matters to me, my family – both past and present.
For those who imply otherwise either do not know me or are choosing to deliberately misrepresent my efforts to bring fairness to Butler County taxpayers and BCC students residing within Butler County.
Wanting an honest discussion regarding HOW BCC is funded is an important conversation for the leadership at BCC and for Butler County taxpayers. If we pay the money, it should be no surprise and no threat when taxpayers employ the democratic process – to question, to ask for accountability, and, ultimately, fair and proportional taxation.
It is far more accurate to say that those opposing BCC Fair Funding and advocating for status quo are ‘anti- Butler County students (and taxpayers)’ and ‘anti-Butler County growth’ than to say that the Fair Funders are ‘anti-education.’ Does name calling and stereotyping really solve the issue?
Advancing the Fair Funding Initiative does not mean that those that support it are ‘anti-education.’ Indeed, almost every Fair Funding supporter supports BCC and public education.
Of the Fair Funding’s core statements -- which of the following can be interpreted as ‘anti-education?’
•80% of BCC’s enrollment comes from outside Butler County.
•Only 20% of BCC’s enrollment is from within Butler County.
•Butler County taxpayers pay over 20 mills in property tax ($15 million in 2019) while Sedgwick County (which makes up 60% of BCC’s enrollment) pays zero mills/property tax dollars.
•Butler County taxpayers have asked that their tax burden be permanently reduced by 5 mills, $3.5 million, with the difference made up by a more proportional and fair funding stream – increasing out-of-county tuition by $25/credit hours or other solutions.
Within these core statements, there is no mention of cutting revenue… period. There’s no mention of cutting positions… period. Reducing investment… no mention. Not supporting BCC… again, no mention.
For those that wish to circumvent the facts by pointing to the anti-education straw man, you’re not fooling Butler County taxpayers who believe there’s a better way to fund a small portion of the services and courses offered to out-of-county BCC students. And, calling me and other Fair Funding supporters ‘anti-education,’ ‘destructive,’ or ‘wanting higher office’ is simply waving the red flag of fear to avoid the real issues of funding fairness and high property taxes.
Recently, an opinion writer from Beaumont wrote that I was a ‘grandstanding legislative cheerleader.’ Now, I’m a mother of one very awesome and talented cheerleader. However, I’m pretty sure the writer was not calling me awesome or strong. I’m pretty sure his statement was intended to demean cheerleaders and to demean me and was a classically sexist and deliberately disdainful personal attack on me simply because I question the status quo.
The writer from Beaumont also said that he agreed with the recent BCC article’s author that they ‘honor their commitments and remain fiscally responsible.’ To this, I might ask the following questions and let readers decide.
•Is BCC being fiscally responsible and fair to Butler County in-county students by giving them the largest tuition rate increase of 8% this fall semester of any student constituency - voted and approved by our Board of Trustees this past March 2018?
•Is it fiscally responsible and fair for BCC Trustees to provide the lowest tuition rate increase to out-of-county, out-of-state, and out-of-country students? They did.
•Is it fiscally responsible and fair to ignore State statute and not pass along State-aid increases to the taxpayers through a mill levy reduction? The increase did occur… and there was no reduction in our mill levy.
•Is it fiscally responsible and fair to plan for a $13 million new facility in Andover -- strategically positioned one mile from the Sedgwick County border to help continue subsidizing 60% of BCC’s enrollment that crosses the Sedgwick County line for a few classes a day?
•Is it fiscally responsible and fair to have administrative offices, courses, and capital investments/leases outside our county rather than grow within our County, especially in El Dorado, which is now the third (not the first as it should be) largest enrollment center?
•Is it fiscally responsible and fair to engage in plans to invest $4 million in a Culinary Arts facility in Downtown Wichita (but due to a ‘cease and desist’ letter from the Board of Regents, was abandoned)?
•Is it fiscally responsible and fair to charge a mere $11 more per credit hour for out-of-county students amounting to a mere $418,000 of savings to Butler County students compared to the $15 million invested each year in property taxes?
• Is it fiscally responsible and fair to increase your taxpayer subsidized budget by 25% in one year?
Butler County taxpayers and BCC students that live in Butler County deserve better. For those that support Fair Funding, you will find that education is a HUGE priority. Notice: Fair Funding does not strip funding to zero or reduce taxes to zero. Butler County taxpayers will continue to generously support Butler County students and the college even by reducing their annual $15 million to $11.5 million.
It’s about being proportional – when only 20% of BCC’s enrollment lives in our County – there’s a problem with asking taxpayers to subsidize the other 80%. It’s not complex. It’s not something that needs to ‘be studied.’ It’s absolutely right to alert taxpayers to this disparity in funding. Fair funding is not ant-education.
Fair funding is pro-commonsense. It’s pro-Butler County growth. It’s pro-fairness. It’s pro-proportionality. It’s pro-sustainability.
Fair Funding – it’s right. It’s needed. It’s long overdue.
Rep. Kristey Williams