By Jessica LeDuc
Blade staff writer
After several months of negotiations, the Cloud County Community College Board of Trustees approved a 3.5 percent raise for faculty after 45 minutes of executive sessions Tuesday night.
On a 4-2 vote, with Dave Clemons and Greg Askren voting against it, the Board approved the 3.5-percent increase to the masters base salary, as well as support staff and faculty increases to wages not to exceed $162,500.
Askren said he was not in favor of more than a three-percent raise because of the 10-percent decrease in enrollment. Even though the college will be saving $254,000 by switching insurance carriers, which will help fund the raises, Askren said the college cannot be sure what it will save next year with the Affordable Health Care Act going into effect.
"I just think we might be biting off more than we can chew here," Askren said Wednesday morning.
Clemons echoed Askren's concerns.
"We have made a generous offer to the faculty of three percent, and with the economic times being tough, enrollment decreased, and not knowing what state aid we will get, I'm concerned about more than three percent," Clemons said.
During program highlights, Vice President for Administrative Services Bob Maxson recommended the college continue its relationship with Group Benefits Services, Wichita, to assist in managing the college's health, dental, vision and life insurance policies.
In September 2012, the college moved from the state of Kansas employee health plan to Blue Cross Blue Shield. Last night, Maxson said the college will save more than $254,000 over the next three years by making the move, and employees will save more than $60,000. This represents an 18.9-percent reduction in the college's health insurance costs.
"This is the first time in seven years that the college's health insurance costs will not be a million dollars," Maxson said. "It (insurance costs) was going up eight to nine percent a year–or more.
"Group Benefits Services has been vital to the college during the move," he said, "and have offered assistance in gaining a better understanding of the Affordable Health Care Act."
Next year, Maxson said, the college is looking at insurance premiums going down between four and five percent.
"Will we continue to have declines in health insurance? Probably not," Maxson said. "But, it'll take a long time, I suspect, for us to get back up to where our costs were in 2012, which was $1.4 million."
USD 333 Superintendent Bev Mortimer was on hand to give the Board an overview of the upcoming school bond election.
On Tuesday, Nov. 5, voters in USD 333 will vote on whether the district should issue general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $5.5 million to pay the costs of building, equipping and furnishing an addition and improvements at CES, which will include classrooms and a FEMA-approved storm shelter; and installing energy conservation measures, including HVAC replacement at CES, as well as lighting and other improvements district-wide.
The 20-year bond issue includes $2.89 million for the HVAC replacement and energy upgrades and $2.37 for the FEMA safe room.
Mortimer said she had been asked why the district wasn't going with a cheaper storm shelter.
"You could spend less money and put something up that would just sit there and never be used," she said. "But if you're going to build it and spend the money, we should be able to use it every day."
The HVAC system at CES is in dire need of replacement, Mortimer said. In the summer of 2007, she said, mold was discovered, and it has been a constant battle since then.
"The HVAC system doesn't control humidity and moisture like it should," she said. "We spend a lot of money now making sure that mold doesn't come back. We're never going to resolve the issue until we replace the system."
If the bond election fails next week, she said she didn't think the school board would have any choice but to move forward with replacing the HVAC system.
"We can't keep putting bandaids on the system and carrying it along while at the same time we may be putting people in the building at risk with the air quality," Mortimer said.
Mortimer said the project will be eligible for 40 percent state aid if the bond election is successful. Clemons asked her if that was guaranteed.
"Historically, they have never taken state aid back," she said. "Can I say for sure? No, because no one knows what they'll do. But historically, they've never taken it away."
Trustee Tom Tuggle asked Mortimer if the voters really had a choice in the matter.
"You're telling us the philosophy of the Board is that we can do it the hard way or the easy way," Tuggle said. "If the bond issue fails, we don't care–we're going to go ahead and spend the money."
Mortimer said that wasn't the case at all. She said she believes the school board is committed to fixing the HVAC problem.
"If the bond election fails, that's the juncture they're going to come to," she said. "With what we know about the HVAC system, what we have to do to keep that running, and the mold testing we constantly do, do we put those kids at risk and those people working in the building at risk with the air quality we have?"
Mortimer said she could not make a prediction on what the school board might do as far as constructing a FEMA shelter if the bond election fails.
"But I will stand here and tell you my recommendation to the board would be to proceed with the HVAC replacement," she said.
In business items, the board of trustees approved a $13,350 bid from Square One Flooring for replacement of tile in the student Commons area. In addition, the board approved a $5,665 change order to the bid to include the replacement of the flooring in the faculty lounge.
The board also approved, with regret, the resignation of Holly Andrews, coordinator for online student and faculty services. Andrews has been an employee at the college since March 1999, and her resignation is effective Nov. 15. She said she has taken a position at Mid-Plains Community College in North Platte, Neb. The board authorized administration to fill her position.
Qin Qin Gong was hired as a new science instructor, effective Jan. 9, 2014, at a prorated nine-month salary of $35,337 plus benefits.
The board also authorized the administration to begin the search process to replace Maxson, who will be retiring at the end of the school year.
The next meeting will be Nov. 19 at 6 p.m. It was moved from Nov. 26 because of the Thanksgiving holiday.