What will we build next – Part 2

Jessica Conway

Municipal funding, or money coming from local appropriations is a thing of the past for most schools, though there is one exception.

?Washburn University is one of the last schools in the nation, and the only one left in Kansas, still using funds from the local community, and it doesn’t have plans to change any time soon.

?Starting as a private school, Washburn started to have some funding issues in the late 1940’s. It was then the local residents rallied together and decided they could help out to keep the school alive.

?Later legal statutes were passed that guaranteed Washburn a certain amount of funding from Topeka. Up until 1999, that amount came from a percentage of the property taxes in Topeka.

?Since then it has been changed to a percentage of the sales tax in all of Shawnee County, though Washburn Vice President of Administration and Treasurer Wanda Hill said that we do still receive a small mill levee from property taxes that goes directly to capital funding.

?She continued that this money is very important to Washburn’s funding, averaging out to be 29.5 percent of its income in 2005. Washburn also receives state allocations which averaged out to be around 13.2 percent of our income with tuition and fees covering 26.4 percent. The rest of the schools money comes from a number of diverse sources, including grants and contracts, auxiliary operations and the University endowment, though generally such money is restricted to only one cause. They also have funds and investments that are not earmarked for current projects.

?”The state money goes up and down depending on their funding. Three years ago, we got a big share [of state funds], but it’s averaged out somewhat since then, but the sales tax is erratic so we have to be fairly conservative about where we send that money,” said Hill. “The only guarantee we have is that we will continue to get a percentage of the sales tax. There isn’t a big fear of the state allocations going anywhere though as long as the economy stays fairly level.”

?Hill said that despite their lack of fear, the school does maintain a reserve just in case.

?”We try to maintain a reserve and so if something happens in any one year, it’s not catastrophic,” said Hill.

?Despite the possible changes in income, Hill said that being municipally funded is best for Washburn, and they have no plans to change any time soon.

?”The other option is becoming a Board of Regents institution like KU or K-State and at that point the local community probably wouldn’t want to fund us anymore. It really gets down to being an economic decision for the state and the institution,” said Hill.

?”Washburn is better off the way it is right now. It makes our total revenue stream more diverse. When you’ve got three major funding elements you can handle changes in any one funding easier. If we were based solely on state income that would be more difficult. It really helps us to be more stable.”