Archive for Thursday, August 15, 2002

Regents mull seeking tax support from communities with universities

August 15, 2002


— Frustrated with state spending on higher education, members of the Kansas Board of Regents may turn to city and county governments for additional money.

The idea of local sales or property taxes in areas with state universities was one of many ideas discussed by regents at their annual retreat at a ranch in southeast Kansas.

Dick Bond, attending his first meeting as a regent, suggested the idea could work to pay for bond debts related to building new facilities or provide money for local scholarships.

"We ought to seriously look at the opportunity for local counties to provide support to the university in their county," Bond said. "I think we need to look at that."

Sedgwick County already has such a tax to support Wichita State University. County commissioners in 1987 approved a 1.5-mill tax for bonds, scholarships and other expenses. The tax provided about $5 million to the university last year.

A mill is $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property valuation.

Bond, a former state Senate president from Overland Park, said he thought the plan would have support in the Legislature, which would have to approve such taxes. But he said soliciting local funds could have political implications with legislators.

"Obviously you don't want to give them excuses to withhold (state) funds," he said.

The local taxes are one of the suggestions included in a report released last year by the Northwest Research Education Center, or NORED. Regent Fred Kerr of Pratt said the issue would require a lot of study before it is presented to the Legislature.

"The atmosphere might be right for that," Kerr said, "but it's probably not one we just draft up and take to the Legislature. We need some feedback."

The regents' retreat continues today. In other discussions Wednesday, regents:

 Decided to pursue allowing the technical schools in the state that are governed by public school boards to become "Type II" institutions, which would give them their own separate governing board.

Currently, four of the state's 11 technical schools are governed by public school boards. Regent Chairman Jack Wempe of Lyons said school officials in Atchison, Manhattan and Goodland would like their institution to become a "Type II" school, but officials in Wichita would not.

 Discussed the committee structure of the Board of Regents.

Currently, regents have separate commissions that oversee community colleges, technical schools and universities.

Regents decided Wednesday to downplay the commissions in favor of three committees based on topics  academic affairs, financial affairs and assessment of the university presidents and chancellor.

 Decided to solicit money  possibly $100,000 to $150,000  from the Kansas City-based Hall Family Foundation for a comprehensive study on higher-education funding.

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