Funding prospects dim for college

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

The state’s struggling economy likely will continue to pull at Allen County Community College’s purse strings.
Steve Troxel, ACCC’s vice president for finance and operations, told college trustees Thursday that they should prepare for a number of ways to make up the lost state aid, including raising tuition and fees or a hike in property taxes.
The college has avoided property tax hikes in the past largely because ACCC has kept a flush cash reserve, Troxel noted.
“But at some point the money runs out,” he said. “And the long-term prospects for the state don’t look great.”
The college lost more than 12 percent of its state funding for the 2008-09 school year, and Troxel said last week’s revenue report from the state was discouraging. The report noted that actual state revenue came up about $232 million short of forecasts, which could make more funding rescissions a near certainty.

IN ANOTHER matter, the trustees agreed to use state mediation to help resolve ACCC’s ongoing dispute with Custom Energy, which installed a new climate control system in 2006.
The contract with Custom Energy stipulated that the new system would be paid for with savings through lower utility bills.
Those lower utility bills have yet to be realized — estimates are as much as an $800,000 difference by the end of 10 years — leading to the dispute in the college’s energy performance contract with the Overland Park-based firm.
Custom Energy officials insist their work was done to specifications and that the savings have not been realized because the college has not properly controlled the system. The college, meanwhile, insists that the system’s operations were spelled out by Custom Energy when it was installed, and that college employees have followed their protocols to no avail.
“We’ve gone this far,” Trustee Spencer Ambler said. “We might as well see this through to the end.”
Troxel, ACCC President John Masterson and attorneys representing the college will huddle with representatives for Custom Energy and officials with the Kansas Energy Office, likely sometime after the first of the year.

THE COLLEGE’S next major capital improvement project will be to replace the roof over the main complex, the Student Services Building and Horton Hall, all of which were last installed about 20 years ago.
The cost of the project is estimated at about $800,000.
Trustees agreed to hire Benchmark, Inc., of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as a consultant to handle bidding services, project administration and construction observation.
Benchmark’s bid of $83,400 was the only one received.
Trustees discussed briefly whether to go with a cheaper option, relying only on part-time construction observation from Benchmark before agreeing that full-time supervision was the preferred choice.
Troxel said the roof work ideally will begin as soon as the spring semester ends. Work is expected to take about 12 weeks, so some portions may not be finished before the fall 2010 semester begins.

CHRISTMAS break for ACCC employees will begin at the end of the workday Dec. 23, trustees said. They will return to work Jan. 4.
The next meeting for trustees is Dec. 10.