The Cowley College Board of Trustees voted March 12 to proceed with adding an industrial kitchen and dining hall to the Sumner County campus, but left the funding mechanism slightly unclear.

The funding discussion eventually led to a larger debate about the fairness of Cowley County property taxes going to fund the new campus, with two trustees questioning the practice.

“Is this to be paid for by our Cowley College or Sumner (County)?” asked trustee Brian Sanderholm.

“What I’m asking for from the trustees is to fund the construction of the (kitchen) and, if there are any funds remaining in the revenues that we receive by way of sales tax funds, that we would reimburse the college those as they come in,” said Gloria Walker, vice president of finance and administration.

She indicated the sales tax being collected in Sumner County has been accruing faster than anticipated and the new amount should be funded easily by that tax during the course of the 10 years it will be in place.

“So basically, if their sales tax covers it, we’ll be paid back?” Sanderholm asked. “Yes,” Walker replied.

“Why was this not included on the original proposal so that we wouldn’t have to take funds from here for this new facility?” asked trustee Gary Wilson.

“At the time the facility was designed, I don’t think we had the wherewithal as to what the kitchen would bring,” Walker said.

She said the benefit of providing the kitchen was an opportunity they saw after the initial design was completed.

The funding for the $500,000 addition, which was approved in a unanimous vote, will be supplemented by money from Great Western Dining.

The college’s food service provider has agreed to inter into an investment contract totaling $130,000.

That investment must be repaid within a two-year period and will be used to offset the construction costs for the kitchen.

Taxation discussion

Cowley College President Dennis Rittle said treating each campus differently is an inaccurate way to look at the out-of-county campuses, as it could potentially cause division and resentment.

“That is not good. We are Cowley College,” Rittle said.

He went on to explain that the way the college is reimbursed from the state level is higher for students outside Cowley County.

For example, students who attend the Mulvane Center net nearly three times the amount of reimbursements to the college from the state as those who attend in Arkansas City.

“I didn’t realize how little a percentage our tax dollar made for all our operations,” said trustee Jill Long. “We couldn’t operate just this campus on the property tax we receive.”

“I think it’s interesting, because the question I asked had absolutely nothing to do with that,” Wilson interjected.

“The question I asked was: ‘Was this provided for in the initial deal?’ and for the life of me, I don’t understand why we would propose building an entity and not (including) a kitchen if you’re going to have this many people there. Secondly, if the tax dollars that come from Cowley County are not that important, why don’t we just not collect the tax?”

“Nobody said that,” Long said.

“I’m taking this as a stab at me, because I said, ‘Was this planned for?’ then we wander into a Sumner vs. Cowley (debate), which is not my intention, but then I hear, ‘Well, the tax dollars from Cowley don’t really mean that much as far as our operation is concerned,’” Wilson said. “Well, (if) it’s not important, let’s quit taxing the people.”

“Mr. Wilson…” board chair JoLynn Foster attempted to interject.

“I promise you that’s the first thing people look at,” Wilson continued. “How much to the high school, how much to the college, and what are we doing?”

“There are sources of revenue and they’re all important,” Foster said. “We can’t live without (all) of them.”

“They’re all critical,” Long agreed.

“We’re talking like what Cowley County puts up is not that important to the whole thing,” Wilson said. “But I digress.”

In other business, the trustees:

  • received a college update from Rittle, who cited a long list of significant achievements this past academic year and praised employees for their efforts to make the accomplishments possible. He also recognized the board of trustees for its support and encouragement throughout the year.
  • heard a legislative update from Jessica Lucas, government affairs liaison.
  • approved payment of all bills and claims as presented, with general operating funds, activities disbursement (including Foundation funds) and federal funds totaling $1,605,821.77.
  • recognized Mary Anderson, of Lawton, Oklahoma, as March Student of the Month.
  • received a Sumner County campus construction update from Walker and representatives of Agora Architecture, who reported construction remains on schedule.
  • tabled for the second time a decision regarding an amendment to the Neighborhood Revitalization Plan within the City of Arkansas City.
  • held a first reading of the Working After Retirement Contribution and Gifts-In-Kind Acceptance policies, with final approval expected at the April meeting.
  • approved a proposal from Pro Track for track resurfacing, based on the best qualified proposal, for a cost not to exceed $99,476, to include all options. The project will be funded from the Athletic Department’s current budget.
  • authorized college administrators to enter into the necessary partnerships to offer Army ROTC, starting in fall 2018. Maj. Eric Hollingsworth, state education officer, provided the board with an overview of the Army ROTC program and the benefits of the partnership. The partnership will be with Cadet Command, the Kansas Army National Guard and Pittsburg State University.
  • were informed by Harold Arnett, vice president of academic affairs, that the 2017 Core Indicators Report from the Kansas Board of Regents was released last week on Cowley College’s Perkins technical education programs. Cowley’s programs met or exceeded five of the six indicators and were within 90 percent of reaching the retention goal. “The faculty were instrumental in obtaining this follow-up data and did a fantastic job,” Arnett said. In addition to the teachers, he also thanked Chris Cannon, Tina Grillot and Chris Hollon for their help with the report.
  • learned from Kori Gregg, vice president of institutional advancement, that the naming campaign for the Sumner County campus continues to be successful, with another $150,000 in donations for naming rights received this month. That was in addition to the $40,000 donated last month by KanOkla for the naming rights to the IT lab and it brings the number of spaces sold at the campus to eight. Gregg also mentioned marketing promotions of the upcoming Junior Day and Tiger Enrollment round-up for area high school seniors in March and April. She also discussed the marketing advisory meeting on March 1, where the highest scoring brand slogan was “Transforming the Future Together.” The committee worked on brainstorming a metaphor that would speak to the same message and came up with “Together We Roar.”
  • heard from Paul Erdmann, vice president for information technology, regarding equipment and network tie-in specifications in progress for the Sumner County campus.
  • received a spring enrollment update from Kristi Shaw, executive director of enrollment management, which shows enrollment headcount is up from this date last year.
  • was informed by Hollon, executive director of institutional effectiveness, that all strategic planning goals have been proposed and vetted by the Strategic Leadership Team. Hollon and Michelle Schoon will attend the Higher Learning Commission annual conference April 7-9 in Chicago.
  • heard a housing update from Jason O’Toole, executive director of student affairs, who said the dorms currently are at 85-percent capacity. He also said the IMPACT program recently hosted a pizza lunch, with eight students attending. O’Toole said the students went above and beyond last semester with participation, grade-point averages, and overall student successful actions.
  • received information from Jan Grace, Sumner campus operations officer, on the recent Principals/Superintendents/Counselors Day on March 2. The event drew 34 people, including the Wellington Mayor Shelly Hansel. Keith Lawing, president and chief executive officer of Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas, Inc., was among those who spoke at the event. “There was a great showing and tremendous speakers that shared lots of information,” Grace said. She also presented Director of Marketing Abby Hollins’ marketing proposal for the Sumner campus.
  • heard from Deborah Layton, faculty liaison, regarding the recent state high school DECA conference March 3-6 in Kansas City that was attended by Sarah Matthews. Layton attended the Phi Theta Kappa Kansas-Nebraska Regional Convention on March 2-4 in Lincoln, Nebraska.
  • received a winter sports wrap-up from Athletic Director Shane Larson, who said the indoor track and field teams placed among the top 25 teams in the nation. Head coach Mark Phillips and assistant coach Dan Adler also were named United States Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches Association Central Region Head Coach and Assistant Coach of the Year, respectively. “This is quite an honor to be recognized by their peers for the outstanding job they are doing,” Larson said. Also, Thais Lindemayer Gomes led the women’s indoor track and field team by clearing a personal best of 11 feet, 9 3/4 inches to win the women’s pole vault at the national championships. Meanwhile, Cowley’s wrestling program qualified six wrestlers to compete at the national tournament in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Sophomore Marcelino Lopez placed fifth in the 125-pound weight class and became the first All-American in the history of the program. Larson also mentioned both Cowley basketball teams reached the 20-win plateau during the 2017-18 season and advanced to play in the Region VI Tournament at Park City’s Hartman Arena.
  • accepted letters of resignation from Cara Kem Cassens as director of theater, Loretta Klamik as psychology instructor and David Smith as director of vocal music, all effective at the end of the 2017-18 contract year.
  • approved the employment of Guillermo Botello as an admissions representative at the Sumner campus, effective March 26; of John Donaldson as dorm manager/intramural coordinator, also effective March 26; and of O.B.L. Walker as custodian/groundskeeper, effective March 20.

Cowley College Director of Institutional Communications and Public Relations Rama Peroo contributed to this story.