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KC budget sparks dispute over Longview expansion

By Glenn Evans
Aug. 6, 2013 at 11 p.m.


KILGORE - A $55.5 million Kilgore College spending plan has revealed a philosophical dispute between a trustee and the college president over a potential expansion into Longview.

"If we don't increase student population and contact hours, we're really going to be in a bind," Trustee C.B. "Scooter" Griffin told President Bill Holda and his staff during board discussion Monday of a 2013-14 budget that's on schedule for approval next week.

"We need students, Bill, we need students. We don't need to increase the burden on students and then fatten administration."

Griffin was commenting on a proposed budget that maintains current tuition and fees while boosting pay across the board. Nothing was resolved and no votes were taken during Monday's budget workshop.

Kilgore College tuition is the 43rd most expensive among Texas community colleges for students coming from within the college taxing district. But tuition ranks 15th highest for students outside the college taxing district. Longview's three school districts are outside Kilgore College's taxing district, so those students pay the higher rate.

Slightly more than 80 students of Kilgore College's incoming classes typically come from Longview High School, the greatest contributing district except for Kilgore ISD, which generally contributes about 90 young scholars.

Out-of-district students pay three times the tuition in-district students face. Fees also are significantly higher for out-of-district students.

Finance director Duane McNaney told trustees $7 of every $10 feeding the $3.4 million in tuition revenue in the budget will come from out-of-district students.

"Our subsistence comes from them," Griffin said. "We need to go where the students are and attract them, that's all. The political side of that - it's keeping us from growing."

Griffin, who represents Kilgore on the elective board, urged Holda to open more avenues to serving Longview, where much of the school's industrial technology learning occurs.

The college recently asked Longview's permission to raze a home next to that city's campus for an expansion that remains in the planning stages. The college plans some $800,000 in spending in Longview, though not necessarily during the coming fiscal year.

Holda added that Longview Economic Development Corp., AEP Southwestern Electric Power Co. and Eastman Chemical Co.-Texas Operations also are making cash and in-kind contributions approaching $1 million to the Longview expansion.

"The taxpayers in (in-district ISDs) Kilgore, White Oak, Gladewater, New London - they're OK with expansion in Longview as long as Longview pays for it," Holda said.

Griffin also urged Holda to run the school more like a business, adjusting staff levels more swiftly and eliminating courses that don't justify themselves financially.

Holda countered that many courses, such as nursing studies, benefit the larger community including hospitals that need such instruction take place locally.

The president also said political considerations are difficult to ignore, citing the appearance of bumper stickers that say, "Keep Kilgore College in Kilgore."

Griffin was not available for comment Tuesday, but Holda explained his philosophy of growth.

"I understand the business approach," he said. "At some time, some of the core principles (of the school mission) don't correlate to that. ... Instead of chasing a number or chasing growth, I would say let's serve our community more effectively, more deeply. Let's empower more folks to achieve their dreams, and numbers and growth will be a by-product.

"How many people have whole layers of potential that they have not achieved? How many mothers in their 20s are home raising kids and just don't think they have an opportunity to pursue higher education at this time?"

Griffin also had questioned where Holda is finding $507,000 in new salary money, bumping that expense from to $21.6 million for 351 employees. The budget adds two employees - there were more than 400 when Holda arrived in 1996.

The proposal includes cost-of-living salary increases of 2.7 percent for faculty, 3 percent for non-teaching staff and 2 percent for administration.

Payroll accounts for 55 percent of the college's daily operations budget. That portion of the spending plan is accounted separately from Pell student grants and other dedicated monies.

The operating budget accounts for $39.9 million of the $55.5 million total budget.

The president walked through a series of plusses and minuses that add $749,000 in new money to his proposal, fueling the proposed pay hikes.

The plusses included $750,000 produced because the Legislature agreed this past spring to shoulder half the cost of health care for higher education faculties, up from a 42 percent state share.

Another $290,000 was cut from the day-to-day operations cost. Keeping the tax rate unchanged, at 15.4 cents, will generate $75,000 more from property owners than it did this year.

That totals $1.1 million, from which Holda subtracted a $290,000 anticipated drop in tuition arising from McNaney's conservative projection along with $76,000 less in state aid.

The net was $815,000, which with the salary bump nets to $308,000 remaining, Holda said.

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