Kilgore College trustees and administrators discussed a proposed budget at a Monday night meeting, reviewing progress made on goals set in the college’s Strategic Plan and outlining possible expenditures in the coming year.
“This is a solid budget,” said KC President Dr. Brenda Kays, after thanking trustees and committee leaders for their work on the proposed budget.
“It allows us to invest in our students, our faculty and our staff, as well as our physical learning environment. I credit your visionary leadership as a board that has allowed us to continue to make strides on all three of these areas.”
Kays credited a tuition and fee increase approved earlier this year as a major factor in creating the 2019-2020 budget. The increase, the sixth made in the past six years, was approved to help offset a downturn in state funding.
“Without exception, one piece of pre-budget work made it easier to balance this year’s budget and meet the rising costs associated with conducting business at the college and that was the tuition and fee increase approved by the college board in March of 2019,” Kays said.
The tuition increase, which takes effect in the fall 2019 semester, will raise in-district rates from $79 per credit hour to $86 per credit hour. It will raise out-of-district tuition rates from $158 per hour to $165 per hour and out-of-state rates from $185 to $215.
“I know that you did not take that decision lightly but as you will see as we delve into this budget, it provided, as promised, the ability of the college to fund student safety and success initiatives as well as to hire and retain quality personnel.”
Kays cited several other factors which aided the creation of the budget.
These included the fact that health insurance costs in the area remained stable and property tax revenues for the college increased by approximately $340,000. 50 percent of the revenue increase will go to fund college repairs and maintenance, Kays said.
She also credited board-approved short-term training investments leading to more students enrolling in continuing education courses, leading to increased tuition and fee revenues.
Kays also referred to the McKinstry project, an $18 million campus-wide renovation to replace old HVAC systems and make buildings more efficient. The project, currently underway, promises to create significant energy savings for the institution.
Kays said the college now bundles their utilities, which will make it easier to track these promised savings when the project wraps up in spring of next year and makes it first payment to the State Energy Conservation Office for the overhaul project in May 2020.
Even with the McKinstry upgrades, much of the campus needs structural improvements, Kays said, from parking lots to buildings. This is a result of maintenance projects deferred for years and the proposed budget attempts to address some of these issues.
The proposed budget also includes a pay increase for campus staff.
“This budget also provides for some movement toward retention and recruitment for faculty and staff. This budget allows for a recommended 1.5 percent salary increase, totaling approximately $225,000,” Kays said.
The budget includes various allocations to keep the college on track with goals outlined in its Strategic Plan, a broad overview of institutional targets intended to improve student outcomes, faculty retention and campus improvements.
This includes $40,000 to pay tutors staffing newly created tutoring and writing labs the college implemented to improve student writing skills and classroom achievement.
$15,000 is being allocated for texting software to send out mass text messages to students to remind them of important college dates, including registration deadlines and upcoming events.
KC has made campus safety and security a major improvement goal over the past year and the proposed budget addresses this as well.
This includes raising Kilgore College Police Department officers’ base salary to $38,000 in an effort to slow down turnover in these positions. This required a funding increase of $12,151.
The budget allocates $84,000 for a campus-wide safety and security audit to identify and correct potential safety issues at the college.
Kays said safety and security improvements already undertaken had included the installation of security cameras. Additional camera installations are planned across the campus. The audit will also look at the installation of additional fencing around instructional locations while extra fencing has already been installed around student housing areas.
Kays also referred to needed improvements to the Kilgore and Longview campuses’ wireless internet infrastructure, a project the college has been working on for some time.
“While we have made strides, we definitely are not there yet,” Kays said, adding students expected to have reliable, high-speed internet access while on KC campuses.
“It is not an amenity, it is an expectation.”
Trustee Joe Carrington, chairman of the board’s Investment, Audit and Finance Committee, said the budget had strong ties to KC’ Strategic Plan and reminded trustees that no action was being taken on the budget Monday night, calling the meeting a “fact-gathering session.”
“I do want to point out one of the reasons we increased tuition is we were expecting a decrease in our state appropriations and that did happen, about $486,000 this year and another $450,000 next year. Hopefully, with ‘Focus to Finish’ (a new KC course model using shortened semesters to allow part-time students to enroll full-time) in the next biennium, that’ll turn around for us,” Carrington said.
KC trustees will vote on the proposed budget, as well the college’s tax rate, at their next scheduled board meeting to be held Aug. 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the McLaurin Administration Building. Carrington said, as of Monday, there is no planned tax increase written into the budget.