Letter to the Editor

Return MPCC to low cost education alternative

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dear Editor,

Mid-Plains Community College (MPCC) at North Platte and McCook began as educational institutions, where individuals in our 18 county area could learn a trade or prepare themselves for further educational opportunities without the costs associated with traditional four year colleges; a no-frills education for the intellectually mature.

When MPCC president Michael Chipps arrived eight years ago he stated his goal was to turn MPCC into a traditional college experience. He has been true to his word. Athletic budgets, for example have been increased to over $2 million with an additional $114,000 added this year for athletic scholarships that formally were paid by the McCook booster club. MPCC has 10 sports programs, six are on the McCook campus; of McCook's 267 full time students 101 are athletes. Only $7,283 in gate receipts was paid by the general public last year to attend MPCC athletic events, apparently area taxpayers have not caught on to Dr. Chipps's college experience theme.

MPCC has 179 full time employees including 47 administrators, 67 faculty and 60 support staff. They receive at no cost to them full family, spouse or individual health insurance coverage. The cost to the taxpayer can be up to $15,456 per family. Taxpayers match retirement contributions up to 8 percent of salary. While the census bureau reported that the average American family's incomes dropped 3.6 percent in 2008 to $50,303 and predictions are of another 5 percent decrease in 2009, the MPCC board of governors followed Dr Chipps recommendation to give approximately 3.6 percent pay increases. Led by the president's $191,285 total pay package (salary, FICA, health and life insurance, retirement), administrators average employment cost was $77,574. Faculty's averaged $76,066.

There was 1705 full time equivalent students last year, based on 15 credit hours. With a proposed budget over $20 million (4.3 percent increase), the average cost per student is around $11,500. On average full-time students, paying their own way will pay $2,430 in tuition and fees toward their education, the remainder will be picked up by taxpayers. Property taxes will go up nearly 9% through higher evaluation, yet the MPCC board only plans to lower the tax levy less than 1 percent.

MPCC's budget increases expanding its original mission is just another example why property taxes are high in Nebraska. What can a taxpayer do with this information? Tell your state senator you want back control of local government payrolls, by eliminating Nebraska's Commission on Industrial Relations. Fear of action by the CIR leads local elected boards to increase pay packages that are not backed by merit or economic conditions. Make sure you know who you're voting for on the College Board next year, electing candidates with free enterprise backgrounds would be advantageous to changing the direction of MPCC. Attend MPCC's budget hearing Wednesday night. Ask the board: Why are taxpayers paying for the costly duplication of administrative staff and athletic teams at campuses only 65 miles apart?

Mike Groene

Western Nebraska Taxpayers Association

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