College mill levy at lowest point since 2016

NOTE: This is the first in a series of five articles detailing SCCC’s investments in the community.

When it adopted the 2019 Fiscal Year budget, the Seward County Community College Board of Trustees took a slight step back — and that’s a good thing.

“The budget we submitted for approval was designed to keep the mill levy the same, and we’re very pleased it came in slightly lower than we had hoped,” said SCCC’s vice president of finance and operations Dennis Sander. “We don’t have control over property valuations or what the state of Kansas designates for higher education. But we do have control over our budget.”

Mill Levy ChartSander crafted the budget with several unknowns in mind. While SCCC’s state aid appropriation remained the same in FY 2018 as is was in FY 2017, some question remains about $79,842 that was reinstated from cuts made two years ago. The status of this source of revenue is still in flux given that the legislature will once again be looking for funding to comply with the Kansas Supreme Court’s latest opinion regarding adequate funding for K-12. Although state funds for Excellence in CTE (formerly referred to as SB 155) continues to provide significant funds to SCCC, it too is subject to legislative appropriation and may not be fully funded.

Another unknown the board handled for years was the tax appeal by National Helium, which sought to reclaim property taxes it claimed were increased incorrectly. Some of these funds were disbursed to SCCC, along with the county government and school district.

With the distinct possibility that the Seward County Attorney will reach an agreement with National Helium, the college may no longer have to prepare for a worst-case scenario. Over the next four years, National Helium will likely pay a lower amount of taxes if it reaches an agreement with the state. To offset the loss of funding, the college will access the money it had set aside for such a contingency.

“What all this means, in plain language, is that we haven’t always known the exact numbers we may receive, or that we may have to pay. It’s best to be frugal and control what we can,” said Sander.

Sander said the SCCC team has worked hard to operate efficiently through recent years. Cost-saving measures have included four-day work weeks during the summer to save utility costs due to air conditioning, reduction in printed materials in favor of digital deliveries, and discontinuance of low-enrollment, academic programming that had a low return on investment.

“Financially, Fiscal Year 2018 was a positive year,” stated Sander in his preface to the budget. “We expect to see that trend continue in 2019.”

College president, Dr. Ken Trzaska praised Sander’s leadership in guiding to SCCC team to innovative solutions while practicing good stewardship.

“At the end of the day, the college depends on this community, and in a very real sense, it’s the community’s money that funds our work,” Trzaska said. “We aspire to the highest level of accountability and excellence, and I believe the current budget accomplishes both.”

Note: This article was corrected to reflect the ongoing process of the National Helium appeal, which as of Oct. 5, is still pending. 

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