Trustee Floris Jean Hampton said he regretted her two votes in support of the proposed merger with DCCC.

An old contention brought to life with new numbers erupted out of the insular college merger planning process and into the public as Dodge City Community College Trustee Floris Jean Hampton said she regretted her two prior affirmative votes.

An analysis prepared by Vada Hermon, the college's chief financial officer, projects a $960,000 shortfall primarily due to increased tuition, loss of discretionary revenue and the related increased cost to provide sports scholarships to athletes. Under current state law, revenue collected from the college's property taxing authority cannot be used to fund tuition for out-of-county students.

The analysis was originally to be discussed during the meeting on July 22, but was pushed from the agenda until after a finance committee meeting next week.

Hampton also said she was frustrated with the closed process that has largely played out in email conversations shared with city officials and business owners and not in open sessions.

"This board has voted twice in public meetings to pursue in good faith the development of a specific proposal with Fort Hays. This board has still not met in session with our president or our staff to address those issues. Mr. Chairman, you have not allowed that and actually prevented that by cancelling a work session and not rescheduling," Hampton said to Board Chairman Merrill Conant at the regular board meeting, Wednesday.

Hampton was referring to a work session cancelled in May days before a Kansas Board of Regents meeting. The cancellation has been attributed to both scheduling conflicts and a senior DCCC staff member's health concern.

For preparing the analysis, Hampton said Hermon, who has worked at the college for more than 30 years, has been personally and professionally attacked.

"She has the right to be treated with respect by those that disagree with her," Hampton said. Hermon maintained in the analysis that promises of a reduction in the property tax rate would be difficult, if not impossible, to implement if the merger plan as presented succeeds.

This embarrasses the proponents of the plan, Hampton continued. "The CFO is being discredited and personally attacked by those that would prefer different numbers."

One email from former FHSU President Ed Hammond addresses Hermon's analysis starting with the phrase: "Vada (Hermon), oh my, where have you been? Your misperceptions have been discussed and clarified at many public and private meetings with DCCC board members and the college executive team."

"Note he said board members, not the board," Hampton said at the meeting. "Mr. Chairman, why is this board being excluded from planning being done by others? … At this point, only two members of this board have been involved in continued planning with others outside of this board."

"I voted twice in good faith to further the planning in good faith and that clause has been ignored," she said.

"I regret my misplaced good faith votes and wish they could be recalled."

Trustee Don Webb said he "totally agreed" with the statements made by Hampton.

"We have a long road to go yet," he added. "Apparently everybody thought we voted to go this way and we didn't — I didn't — I voted to continue the research and I want that to be known."

Members of the board, DCCC staff, Kansas Board of Regents and FHSU will meet next Thursday to discuss financial aspects of the merger.

"I would say I am looking forward to the meeting on the finance committee," Trustee Morris Reeves said. "I think that's where we'll get answers to these questions."

Regent Shane Bangerter said the idea that the mill levy will need to be increased to match DCCC's obligations as spelled out in the current merging framework was "ridiculous" when reached for comment on the financial analysis.

"There will be plenty of money to operate the institution," he said. Critical voices in the process are making the mistake of seeing DCCC and FHSU, post-merger, as two separate institutions rather than one.

"That's what I think 100 percent of the issue is. That's the whole rub right there. I see this thing working just like K-State Salina."

With the finance committee meeting, some of these issues could be addressed if a funding problem is seen, Bangerter said, including DCCC keeping portions of the student fees to fund functions excluded from the property tax revenue pool.

With fees, however, Hermon said in an email to Bangerter that it would merely reach a breakeven point, not allow for a mill levy reduction.

Before adding a larger student body and the tuition and fees they will bring, the merger proposal calls for $5 million in state revenue to help operate the school. "Suffice to say, there is plenty of money there to make all this work," Bangerter said.

"Further, the whole idea is to keep doing exactly what we're doing as closely as we can. If we pay for scholarships now, we'll continue to pay for scholarships."

A look into a portion of the email conversations that have been occurring outside public scrutiny describe a process far from the open, workgroup and stakeholder group-focused planning that was promised earlier.

Included in the email conversations are representatives from DCCC, FHSU and KBOR, but also the City of Dodge City and select Dodge City area business owners.

DCCC faculty representative Scott Thompson said critical voices are being left out of the conversation and faculty members and Ford County taxpayers are being told to accept "blue sky promises."

"It's interesting to look at the list of people that are receiving these emails," he said prior to the meeting. "It's been secretive and selective the whole way through."