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SCCC/ATS to Raise Mill Levy by 4 Points

KSCB News - July 23, 2015 6:44 am

College board to raise mill levy by 4 points
Raise due to dropping gas valuations: ‘we will still collect less in total taxes’

The Seward County Community College/Area Technical School Board of Trustees voted Monday to approve a 4 point mill levy increase for the new fiscal year. The unanimous vote, with trustee John Engel absent, followed nearly an hour of discussion by board members concerned about balancing taxpayer concerns with the importance of sustaining the college as a community resource in future years.
Local property owners will see the increase in taxes collected by Seward County — for example, about $80 more per year for a $100,000 residential home.
“There’s not much you can do when gas valuations go down,” said board member Marvin Chance Jr. He noted the board has used as much of the college’s cash reserve as is prudent.
“We can access some of that funding again,” he said, “but we’re going to be in the same boat, or worse, at this time next year, unless we look at other approaches.”
Fellow trustee Dustin Ormiston, a Certified Public Accountant, agreed.
“Lower valuations hit us harder than they do the city and the school district,” he said. “Even by raising the mill levy, we will still collect less in total taxes. We need to get as close to breaking even as possible.”
According to the latest estimates provided by Seward County Clerk’s office, the college’s expected assessed valuation will be down by $30 million. The decline is primarily due to a decrease in oil and gas values.
Even with raising the mill levy, the college’s budget remains conservative, said Dean of Finance and Operations Dennis Sander, who also serves as Acting President.
Sander presented the 2016 budget to the board at Monday’s meeting, and noted that “just as last year, continued to reduce non-compensation budgets.”
“We’re working very hard just to make our budget break even,” Sander said. “We are already looking ahead to next year to find further cost-saving measures.”
Sander said summer facilities use will become even more streamlined in the coming year, with buildings that do not host classes — Epworth Allied Health, for example — closed in order to reduce air conditioning costs. Low-enrollment program instructors have been notified that, if class numbers do not increase, their positions might be eliminated by this time next year. Several administrative, faculty and staff positions have been left unfilled when employees retire or resign. Sander has also evaluated long-term maintenance and improvement projects that can be deferred.
“In our homes, if our income is down, you have to quit spending, or revise your spending,” said board member Sharon Hobble. “That’s what we’re doing as state funding shrinks.”
“With the mills we raised last year, we’re just breaking even,” noted board member Rick Brenneman.
Chance moved to increase the mill levy by 4 points, and Ormiston seconded the motion, which also accepted the 2016 budget presented by Sander.
Chance offered a final thought about the college’s approach to financial planning:
“It’s time to “pound the bushes for students, and get enrollment up,” he said.
That goal may be more achievable with the hiring of a new Director of Admissions, said Dean of Student Services Celeste Donovan.
“I’m pleased and excited to welcome Bert Luallen as our new director of admissions,” said Donovan. “He’s not new to the college, having served as head volleyball coach for 10 years, so he knows how to recruit, he has a business and marketing background – and if someone can get the job done, I’m convinced it will be Bert.”
Admissions staff will begin visiting area county fairs, starting with the Grant County Fair in Ulysses this week.
“We have a sense of urgency, and excitement about getting the word out, and getting students enrolled,” Donovan said.

In other business, the board:
* approved the personnel report. New employees include Thais Baziquetto-Allen, head volleyball coach; Dalton Brooks, automotive technology instructor; DeAudra Brown, assistant women’s basketball coach; Mark Buckley, KSBDC Outreach Consultant; Marreta Campbell, healthcare occupations instructor; Edward Hall, CIS instructor; Bert Luallen, director of admissions; Michael O’Kane, KSBDC Associate Regional Director; Cheryl Schmale, KSBDC Regional Director; and Luis Vela, automotive technology instructor.
* thanked SCCC/ATS Director of Human Resources Deb Weilert and Administrative Assistant to the President Lois Magner for their roles in the presidential search.
“I want to publicly acknowledge them for their hard work,” said Oliver. “They want far beyond their regular duties to make this a success. I’ve always been told what a great job Deb does, and I had an opportunity to see her do that. Lois did a great job of planning things for the candidates and taking care of them.”
* noted that incoming president Dr. Ken Trzaska will attend the KACCT new presidents’ academy conference in August. Trzaska will assume his duties at SCCC/ATS August 17.
* voted unanimously to retain the standing roster of officers, with Oliver as chair, Chance as vice-chair, Tina Call as college treasurer and Mike Brond as assistant treasurer. The board clerk/secretary spot is occupied by Sander until Trzaksa’s arrival.


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