Economic disadvantage for Butler County residents

Stephanie Ma, Staff Writer

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For the past 10 years, the citizens of Butler County have been paying extra property taxes to Butler County Community College in order to fill its funding deficit caused by the in-county and out-of-county price gap.

Only three percent of Butler County residents take BCC classes, yet they all help fund the 80% of BCC’s student body that do not reside in the county. Of that 80 percent, 60 percent (48 percent of the BCC student body in total) reside in Sedgwick County and pay no property taxes that go to BCC.

“That’s like me not having Netflix, Netflix offering Sedgwick County residents a discount, and then forcing me to pay the difference just because I live in Netflix County,” said a Wichita State student, who chose to remain anonymous .

Rose Hill’s Vice Principal, Butler County’s Commissioner, Kansas’s State Representative, and the Kansas Association of Counties all believe that BCC should raise their out-of-county tuition to lessen this unreasonable burden on local taxpayers.

“But BCC has been carrying on like there is no conversation,” Butler County Commissioner, Dan Woydziak, said. “It’s been on the county’s legislative agenda for at least 10 years that I’m aware of and they are saying that they’ve never heard of it, which I’ll leave to their discretion, but we’ve made it a priority. We’re not just letting it lie.”

Citizens pay 20 percent more to live in Butler County than in Sedgwick County, so this out-of-county discount puts BuCo at an economic disadvantage, especially when expanding businesses and building new homes.

“Rose Hill and Andover feel the biggest impact because we’re right here, [so close to Sedgwick County],” Woydziak said. “BCC has expanded their campuses to attract Sedgwick County students and yet Sedgwick County’s not paying their fair share. We just don’t feel that we reap enough benefit to pay this much tax for 80 percent of BCC kids that don’t even live in the county.”

Kristey Williams, the State Representative of Kansas, believes the Fair Funding Initiative would help solve this. It advocates for a $3.5 million property tax decrease for BuCo residents and a $25 per credit hour increase for out-of-county tuition. This increase would still be less than 50 percent of WSU’s enrollment costs.

The BCC Trustees declined and instead, increased their budget by 25 percent, did not provide the required statutory tax relief related to KSA 72-204, included almost $1 million in increased assessed valuation (basically they received an automatic raise), and included at least $6 million for capital investment for a brand-new Andover facility.

“Two years ago, BCC decided to increase the mill levy [property tax] by 10% for technological purposes,” Williams said. “They placed the entire burden of technology upgrades utilized by the entire student population on the backs of the 20 percent of the students’ families that reside in our county. That seems stunningly unfair.”

Williams implores BCC Trustees to reset their priorities and put BCC students of Butler County and its taxpayers first.

“A college should not think like a business,” the previously mentioned WSU student agrees. “Doing so shifts its primary focus away from quality education, and towards an obsession for profit.”