Budgets among issues facing GCCC board

3/28/2013

By RACHAEL GRAY

By RACHAEL GRAY

rgray@gctelegram.com

The guarantee for federal and state funds for educational institutions is questionable as uncertainty looms for the state and nation's budget.

The financial predicament may leave tough choices for educators as they may face decisions on whether to cut personnel or programs, or raise local taxes to help fund education.

Garden City Community College Board of Trustees candidates weighed in on what they plan to do should budgets be further reduced. The incumbent candidates all say they would rather not raise property taxes, and look to trim programs instead.

Dr. William Clifford, incumbent trustee who is seeking reelection, said he favors trimming programs and limiting hiring instead of increasing the local tax burden.

"The trustees require our president to maintain a minimum 20 percent annual budget reserve (the actual reserve has varied from 21-25 percent). Over the past decade, several cuts in state operating funds and transfer payments have been mitigated through prudent use of the reserve, without increasing the mill levy. We have also trimmed programs and limited new hiring, preferring normal attrition to layoffs," he said.

Ron Schwartz, an incumbent trustee also running for reelection, said he plans to do everything he can to retain the current mill levy without further straining property owners.

"We want to maintain a top quality institution, but I don't want our owners to suffer any more than necessary. We will continue working to get federal grants to help with funding of our programs," he said.

Douglass agrees with Clifford and Schwartz.

"If budget cuts occur, I would favor GCCC budget cuts rather than increasing property taxes. I voted in favor of the last mill levy increase. I would not ask that again of the citizens of Finney County," she said.

Harold Orosco was unavailable for comment at press time.

The Kansas Senate gave final approval Thursday to a $14 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, setting the table for negotiations over a final spending bill with the House.

The Senate plan advanced on 24-16 along party lines, receiving no support from the chamber's Democrats, who were critical of the budget and its lack of additional funding for community corrections, higher education and public schools.For public schools, the Senate would increase state aid by $14 per pupil in 2014, raising it to $3,852. That increase is made possible by another part of the bill that calls for moving the cost of providing school transportation services — $96.6 million — to the Department of Transportation. The House plan keeps base aid at $3,838 per student.

The chambers' versions also differ in their treatment of higher education.

The Senate approved a 2 percent cut — roughly $15 million — of funding to state university, community colleges and technical schools. The House's cut doubled the Senate reduction, the AP reported.

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