The BTC Board on Wednesday night approved a $20.75 million tax levy for its 2009-20 budget. That’s an increase of just 0.6 percent from last year.

The move recognizes the area is suffering through hard times, something the board and administration have heard loud and clear from taxpayers, said BTC President Eric Larson.

The board approved a plan to spend $886,836 to reduce the tax increase.

The money was available because BTC finished the 2008-09 school year with a surplus.

The administration did not want a zero tax increase, or to cut taxes, because of how that could affect future budgets, Larson said.

Enrollment will eventually drop as the large numbers of displaced workers graduate, Larson said, and tax increases may well be needed to pay for ongoing needs, so a small increase now will hold down future increases to levels taxpayers can afford.

“The taxpayer tends to forget that you gave something back the year before,” added Dick Shikoski, district controller.

Larson estimated the owner of a $100,000 property would pay $172.93 for the BTC portion of their upcoming property tax bill, an increase of $2.44.

“We hope people understand that that’s a very modest and reasonable increase,” Larson said. “…We think we’re being responsive, from what we hear from our community in terms of taxes.”

The original tax increase passed when projections called for a 2.5 percent increase in district valuation. But the equalized value of all district properties dropped for the first time in many years.

Property values of the district, which comprises most of Rock and Green Counties, dropped by 3.3 percent, to $11.99 billion. Not lowering taxes would have meant a greater burden on taxpayers, Larson noted.

The board Wednesday also approved plans for the rest of the surplus funding:

-- $500,000 for one-time capital equipment purchases that have been put off in recent years. That could include an upgrade of the campus wireless system, computer security upgrades, patient simulators, computers for the aviation center, remodeling of the marketing lab, replacement of an access road and more.

-- $400,000 to be set aside for future expansion or other capital projects. Larson said no decisions have been made, but the money could go to expanding BTC’s Beloit center, to making room for a “green manufacturing” program or building of an emergency-vehicle training track, which BTC had put on hold.

-- 200,000 added to a trust fund to pay future employee benefits costs.

The surplus was the result of enrollments that increased by 54 percent over the past two years. Higher enrollment means more tuition, and because BTC’s enrollment increases are greater than other state technical colleges, it will receive a greater share of state aid, which is allocated based on enrollment, officials said.

The windfall also comes from efforts to hold down expenses, Shikoski said.

For example, classes are larger, and BTC has increased the instructional staff with part-timers who cost less than full-timers, Shikoski said.

This year’s budget includes raises for most if not all BTC staff. Larson is getting a 1.5 percent raise. Support staff are getting 3 percent, and the faculty union contract calls for a 3.25 percent raise.

Officials have defended the raises, saying staff members deserve them because they are being asked to work harder and longer to handle the enrollment increase.

The Blackhawk Technical College board on Wednesday:

-- Confirmed the appointment of Renea Ranguette as vice president of finance and college and college operations, filling a vacancy that’s been open for several months. Ranguette is a CPA and holds a master’s degree in business administration. She has been vice president for administrative services at Bay de Noc Community College in Escanaba, Mich., for the past eight years. Ranguette starts at a salary of $102,000.

-- Accepted the resignations of Erin Maney, manager of online learning, assessment and curriculum; Theresa Butori, Teaching Learning Center specialist; and nursing instructor Amy Hart.

-- Approved hirings to handle increased enrollments, of six limited-term instructors and three part-time lab assistants. Also, one instructional specialist and one administrative specialist will go from part- to full-time. Cost for all these hires is expected to be about $329,000.

-- Agreed to create the position of dean of public safety, to recognize the expanding responsibilities of the current associate dean of protective services. The current associate dean is retiring.

-- Approved the purchase of 460 computers and related equipment for $445,000, through a competitive bidding process.

The Blackhawk Technical College board is using more than $800,000 in excess funding to hold down the property tax levy this year. Here are the numbers:

-- 2008-09 tax levy—$20.62 million

-- 2009-10 levy approved in June—$21.63 million.

-- Percent increase—4.9 percent.

-- 2009-10 levy finalized Wednesday—$20.75 million.

-- Percent increase—0.6 percent.

-- BTC estimate of taxes on a $100,000 property—$172.93, up $2.44 from last year. does not condone or review every comment. Read more in our Commenter Policy Agreement

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