Butler Trustees discuss budget, hold August Meeting
Notice of Public Hearing rescheduled for September 8
Two days into a new semester hallmarked by Covid-19, Butler Community College Trustees approved a lower mill levy, and the legal and operating budget for the 2020-2021 school year on a 6 to 1 vote on Aug. 11. Then, on Aug. 13, the college was notified that the Notice of Public Hearing was inadvertently not published on the designated Aug. 1 date. This fact nullifies the vote. The Notice is being published and the Public Hearing will now be held September 8 at 4:30 p.m. Trustees will revote on the budget at the September meeting.
Local dollars to be levied are $14,420,075 — $12,928,138 for operations and $1,491,937 for capital outlay. As Board Chairman Jim Howell explained, the legal budget provides the college with the ability to increase its expenditure budget “to address a significant unanticipated expense in a timely fashion.”
Trustees approved the unrestricted general fund taxes to be levied at 16 mills and the capital outlay at 1.846 mills for a total of 17.846.
Trustee Julie Winslow voted against the budget, seeking to reduce the mill levy to 15 mills. She and Trustee Shelby Smith voted to do so, but the motion failed. The reduction in taxes levied is $1.2 million less than a first option earlier reviewed by the board and $550,000 less than a second option — both of which failed to pass in July.
Two members of the public spoke before the board voted during the (unofficial) public hearing.
Former Trustee David Sundgren, a Realtor, said he didn’t want to see further cuts at Butler but better support at the state level.
He noted neighboring counties used to kick in to help support Butler, but the state said it would make up the difference in state aid.
“That looked good for us because the mill levy was lowered,” Sundgren told trustees. “I said at the time that we’re going to pay for this, and we have. The state soon after started decreasing the amount of money that the college got. We had to raise our mill levy to catch up.”
He said he showed a house in Andover recently near the Butler/Sedgwick county line. The difference in taxes for the homes on the Sedgwick County side was “very noticeable,” he said.
“The solution isn’t to cut Butler Community College because we’ll damage our economy,” he argued. “The solution is to talk to our state representatives and our state senators and take it to the level it needs to be addressed at.”
Linda Jolly, executive director of El Dorado Inc., a private/public economic development agency, noted that the college “recruits from a region over nine times larger than Butler County’s population alone.
The college serves as a “strong partner” for economic and workforce development, she said.
For every $1 invested in Butler, $2.88 is returned in economic development, she said.
Like Sundgren, she said legislators “should represent our needs, go to Topeka and fix what they broke.”
At an earlier work session on the budget, College President Kimberly Krull said “the community college analysis of our funding model identifies very clearly that the community colleges — and KBOR (Kansas Board of Regents) agrees with it — are about 45 percent funded at the level that we should be. There’s a huge gap in our funding that is not paid by the taxpayers and is not made up by the state. If we were funded at a level that was higher by the state, it’d be a little different scenario for all of us.”
Trustees discussed further tax cuts, but board members who supported staying at 16 mills warned about deficits.
“If this were a normal year, I could see where you’re coming from,” said Doug Law, Secretary and Treasurer of the board.
Smith said he ran for the board on a promise of cutting taxes, but he ultimately voted to approve the budget.
Trustee Mary Martha Good noted that Garden City Community College’s mill levy was “going up almost 2 mills.”
Krull said “each college is going to have their own unique challenges. Everybody’s cutting budgets.”
Kent Williams, Vice President of Finance, noted there’s a $736,000 deficit “for this year, and that’s an ongoing deficit. We have to figure out how to turn that around.”
The college, he said, cut more than $2 million in personnel expenditures this year. Concerned about the pandemic, the college did not give raises to employees and has a furlough built into this year. The college needs to budget more for deferred maintenance, he said.
“We need to have discussions coming up from a strategic standpoint on how we’re going to maintain this campus,” he said. “We’ve already reduced the budget through reducing the mill levy that we originally proposed, which would have kept the revenue the same. If you just keep piling it on, we’re going to have a bigger hole to dig out of.”
Monthly payroll is $3.2 million, he said. Board Vice Chairman Lance Lechtenberg, who participated in the meeting by video, said it made sense to “have at least two months of payroll costs in reserve.”
Law stressed that the college has contractual obligations to meet payroll.
The full meeting can be viewed on YouTube via BCTV Channel 20.