In August of 2019 the Board of Trustees unanimously approved the 2019-20 budget and Mill Levy at 19.060 Mills which was stable from the year prior. A few short months later, President Dennis C. Rittle presented a budget shortfall on Feb. 17 for special building funds that include repairs on some buildings even outside of Cowley County. On that Monday evening as you Trustees were sitting in your elected seats, the economy was booming, things were all good amongst the ranks and Rittle offered a solution for the shortfall. Rittle proposed a minimal Mill Levy increase that would impose 0.75 Mill Levy increase, lasting for five years. As presented, this tax was only to be marginal and would increase one’s tax liability by approximately $11 per $100,000 of valuation in property. While at the time this may have seemed reasonable and under the circumstances this may have been even an easy decision, but things have changed seismically. In that very moment, the exact same evening, as a board of duly elected officials you passed Resolution No: 2020-16.
This tax is projected to add a tax burden for the citizens of Cowley County of more than $1,000,000 over the next five years. This is in addition to the $5,200,000 already collected year-over-year from Cowley residents to support not only the campuses in Cowley County but also the ever-growing campuses in our neighboring counties. While almost everyone in Cowley County supports the college and wants to see it prosper, they also want to see the same for themselves in their personal lives. With the continued tax hikes in our community, Cowley County residents are struggling to find prosperity.
In early March, following the passing of Resolution No: 2020-16, a group of well-organized Cowley residents hit the streets of our county and began collecting signatures to petition the passing of this tax increase. Despite it only taking a few signatures from the trustees to increase our property taxes, it requires 5 percent of the registered voters in Cowley County that is approximately 960 signatures to contest this tax increase. While making great progress in collecting the required signatures, COVID-19 struck the world in an unprecedented and historical wave. The Governors stay-at-home orders March 30-May 3 stifled our ability to interact and gather signatures. In the face of only having about 20 days to actively collect signatures we were able to obtain 906 signatures from your constituents, neighbors, colleagues, staff and even a couple of Cowley College Trustees.
Regardless of our greatest efforts, we fell short and we are asking for your help as Trustees. Times are tough and they are only going to get harder in the coming months with the looming job cuts and economic disaster that has come upon us. We plead with you and ask you to repeal Resolution No: 2020-16 and not increase our taxes.
Sincerely, Citizens of Cowley County
Submitted by Brandon Every, Arkansas City