MSTC board adopts 2014-15 budget

MSTC board adopts 2014-15 budget

June 17, 2014

Mid-State Technical College’s (MSTC) Board of Directors adopted its 2014-15 budget following a public hearing during their meeting Monday evening in Wisconsin Rapids.  The annual budget goes into effect on July 1, 2014.

The new General Fund Operations budget is $30,087,774, a 1.7% increase over last year.  The operational budget was prepared with the assumption of a 3.5% increase in enrollment.  According to an introductory letter in the adopted budget booklet, the budget planning process combines continuation of high-quality programs and services with a desire to “take strategic and calculated risks, address challenges, and pursue opportunities.”

While the economy has shown signs of improvement in the last year, budget challenges are not a thing of the past.  Area high school graduating classes continue to decline.  The population of central Wisconsin continues to trend as significantly older than the national average, and population growth of many of the counties that the college serves is stagnant or shrinking.  As in recent years, Vice President of Finance Nelson Dahl said MSTC had difficult choices to make to sustain an affordable path to a degree, technical diploma, or certificate.

However, Dahl conveyed that enhanced efforts in strategic planning, marketing, accountability, and facilities, as well as refinement of the college’s program offerings, have all contributed to the college projecting its first enrollment increase since the 2010-11 academic year.  The college has also recently moved into a much larger campus in Stevens Point to resolve space issues at their previous location. 

“Each of these initiatives is an investment in student success and organizational effectiveness,” said Dahl.

Dahl also noted that this budget comes during a time of uncertainty in the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS).  The college’s mill rate is projected to fall from $1.73 to $0.86 per $1000 of equalized valuation, as the state used surplus funds to buy back a large portion of technical college levies.  This new mill rate equates to only $86.32 on a $100,000 home.

“As a result of recent property tax changes, the State of Wisconsin is now the primary financial supporter of Wisconsin’s technical colleges for the first time in the system’s 100-year history,” said Dahl.

Dahl added that MSTC still poses a considerably lower impact than other taxing authorities because the college serves a broad tax base of 97 municipalities in all or parts of Adams, Clark, Jackson, Juneau, Marathon, Portage, Waushara, and Wood counties.  In fact, using Wisconsin Rapids as an example, Dahl said that MSTC represented only 6 cents of every property tax dollar before the recent changes; following those changes, the college will be just 3 cents of every property tax dollar. 

President Dr. Sue Budjac said that MSTC and the 16-college Wisconsin Technical College System believe property tax reform is absolutely a good thing, and are happy to see property tax relief for local homeowners.  However, she cautioned that completely removing the technical college system from local funding would diminish each technical college’s ability to serve the specific, unique needs of each technical college district. 

“The loss of local funding would likely increase the likelihood that interests outside of central Wisconsin would define the direction of our college,” said Budjac.  “MSTC's community-based responsiveness and flexibility would be negatively impacted.”

MSTC offers more than 100 associate degrees, technical diplomas, and certificates at its campuses in Marshfield, Stevens Point, and Wisconsin Rapids, and a learning center in Adams.  The college serves a resident population of approximately 165,000, including all or portions of Adams, Clark, Jackson, Juneau, Marathon, Portage, Waushara, and Wood counties.  Nearly 90% of MSTC grads are employed within six months of graduation, and 63% stay to work in the MSTC District.