Editors note: Below are written comments submitted by Mike Bergagnini to the Cowley College Board of Trustees. Bergagnini asked that they be published as a letter to the editor.
To my understanding, the charter of Cowley County Community College is to provide educational opportunities for the residents of Cowley, Sumner, and Chautauqua counties. In support of that activity, the college receives over $5.5 million each year from Cowley County property taxes.
I am concerned that the college is continually acquiring land and buildings which do not effectively contribute to the college mission. The college currently owns over 40 properties, of which 12 are vacant lots or unoccupied properties, most of which the college has no current use for, and has no probable use for in the future.
I understand that the board is considering purchase of the old dairy on Chestnut Avenue and may consider purchasing an additional property on Summit Street.
I request that the board, directors of this education institution which consumes a significant amount of Cowley County property taxes, look at the current list of college properties, and direct the college administration to provide justification as-to the current and future use of these properties. The board should also more carefully consider the financial effect on the college, Arkansas City taxpayers, Winfield taxpayers, and Cowley County taxpayers before acquiring additional properties.
These college-owned vacant properties are paying no taxes to Arkansas City, Winfield, or Cowley County and require significant college funds for insurance and maintenance.
You can see that the market for this rural Kansas college’s academic services is not expanding, if you consider that full time enrollment for the entire college fell 10 percent after adding a new multimillion dollar campus. The college is not located in a Field of Dreams where, if you build it, they will come.
The board and administration of this college need to get back into providing what its charter requires, to stop chasing an academic market which does not exist, and should address the underserved vo-tech needs within its territory.
Michael A. Bergagnini