From the Butler Community College Trustees:
Butler Community College is an institution that believes in honest dialogue, and we act on fact. Communication is one of our core values. Due to the heightened interest in the college’s mill levy by Kansas 77th District Rep. Kristey Williams and the Butler County Commissioners, it is important everyone has all of the facts.
We hosted the Butler County Commissioners, Ty Masterson, Kristey Williams, other legislators and top college leadership in November 2015 on our El Dorado campus for a joint gathering. The issue of Butler’s mill levy was never brought up. Of the major taxing entities in the county, Butler Community College has remained the lowest for more than a decade. The Trustees have worked hard to maintain a lower mill levy for county taxpayers despite decreased funding from the state and enrollment declines.
In 2016, the Trustees approved a Capital Outlay mill levy that increased the taxes levied by the college by 2 mills for a set period of five years. The mill levy increased from 18.063 to 20.063. The increase was initiated to support needed updates and major enhancements in Butler’s digital arena, which will impact students, staff and visitors on our campuses. With ever-changing technology, the project could not be “piecemealed.” At the end of the five-year timeframe, the college’s levied taxes will return to 18.063 mills.
The following graph shows the current level of mills levied to Butler County taxpayers by various taxing entities in the county.
• The total economic impact of Butler Community College on South Central Kansas is $398.5 million annually. (EMSI)
• Out-of-district students attending Butler generate $9.5 million annually in spending back into the economy which equates to $6 million in new spending in the form of rent, fast food, gasoline, entertainment and groceries. (EMSI)
• Butler County Community College is our legal and official name. The word “county” was dropped several years ago by numerous community colleges because we serve well beyond our county borders.
• Butler Community College is the lowest major taxing entity in Butler County.
• Butler Community College has the third lowest mill among ALL 19 Kansas Community Colleges.
• In three years, the college’s 20 mills will reduce to 18.063, the same level at which the mill levy has remained since 2009.
• Only Kansans living in 18 of the 105 counties pay taxes for their local community college. One county has two community colleges.
• 15 of the 19 community colleges levy taxes at more than 20.5. Community college taxpayers pay from 9.4 mills (Johnson County Community College) to 46.7 mills (Colby Community College).
• The impact of 20 mills to the taxpayer for a $200,000 home = $460 annually with the cost of one mill being approximately $11.50 per $100,000 of property value.
• The proposed 5 mill reduction would cut $3.5 million from Butler’s budget.
• The $25 per credit hour increase suggested by Rep. Williams will create an estimated eight percent decrease in enrollment, creating even greater revenue loss from decreased tuition dollars.
As members of the Board of Trustees and as elected officials, we are charged with guiding the future of an educational institution with a 91-year rich history in our county. We take very seriously the impact our taxes, pricing and spending have on our taxpayers and our students. We understand the true relationship between pricing and enrollment. The institution is operated by higher education experts who know their industry.
The Trustees and the administration are very grateful for the support we receive from our tax base. It’s a challenge to manage with limited resources. We know every board and local elected official faces the same problem. We understand the frustration that Butler County taxes are higher than neighboring Sedgwick County. We all want a stronger, more vibrant economy for Butler County and our taxpayers, but we also need to acknowledge that our economy is very closely linked to that of Sedgwick County. This increases the complexity of the issue.
As a board, we set the local mill levy. Rep. Williams would like people to believe that we can simply access our reserves and buy down the mill levy. She does not understand our business or the fact we require the college to have 11.5 percent in cash reserves. These reserves are used for payroll and day-to-day operations in months when we do not have revenue streams coming from the state or from student revenue sources. In addition, these funds are available for emergencies that arise. These critical reserves allow us to meet needs while maintaining our low mill levy rate.
Prior to 1999, counties that didn’t have a community college made an out-district tuition payment to the community colleges where their students were attending. In 1999, the Kansas Legislature voted to do away with out-district tuition funding for community colleges. They created a four-year phase out plan but only funded the first two years. If the state were paying the community colleges what they promised us in 1999, Butler would be receiving an additional $5.9 million from the state this coming fiscal year. But, that money will not be coming. The legislators have altered the traditional funding model for community colleges (1/3 from the state, 1/3 from the county, 1/3 from students). Now, students pay closer to 44 percent while the state and county pay closer to 28 percent respectively.
Therefore, we believe the conversation about community college funding should be happening in Topeka. That’s where we send our elected officials to work and get things done. The state’s universities receive 78.5 percent of the state’s higher education monies. Community and technical colleges receive the remaining 21.5 percent, yet we educate on average 13,000 more students annually than the four-year institutions. Is this fair funding? The Kansas Board of Regents and the legislators should reconsider a funding model that more fairly funds the institutions educating the majority of students through a reallocation of existing funds.
As Trustees for the county’s largest employer, it is disheartening to have an elected official attack an institution that should be a point of pride in our community. We need legislators to work in Topeka to create stronger fairness across all educational institutions, rather than targeting the lowest major taxing entity in Butler County. To hastily cut millions from our budget shrinks the college, its employment base, programs and effectiveness. These are critical areas that, as Trustees, we cannot compromise without thoughtful discussion and study.
Butler’s Trustees are about togetherness. We want teamwork. We want ideas, visions and dialogue that bring us together and address the county’s economic problem for the long haul, not just for the weeks leading up to the next election. As representatives of an outstanding educational institution, we seek elevated conversations and work that rises above these actions. We are willing to work together for a greater, common good. Together, we can listen, engage and brainstorm new funding methods for the state, as well as innovate ideas for the future of our county.
Board of Trustees
Eileen Dreiling - Chair
District 2, Position 2
JoAnn Craven - Vice Chair
District 2, Position 5
Dr. Greg Joyce - Secretary / Treasurer
District 3, Position 3
Ken Bohon
At Large
Ron Engelbrecht
District 1, Position 1
Jim Howell
District 1, Position 4
Lance Lechtenberg
District 3, Position 6