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Community colleges of Butler, Beaver consider merger

| Sunday, April 28, 2013, 1:06 a.m.

With an aging and shrinking county population and flat funding subsidies, the head of the Community College of Beaver County board of trustees said it makes good sense to reach out to the school's Butler County counterpart about a possible merger.

“Butler County Community College is in good shape, and we are as well, but we'll see where we are in five years,” said Helen Kissick of Brighton. “Maybe the better equation may be to combine horsepower between the two.”

Butler County Commission Chairman Bill McCarrier, who sits on the Butler college's board of trustees, said he's not initially inclined to support a merger.

“I don't see any pluses for it,” McCarrier said. “We have a good system now. I don't see any point in joining. I would have to see a lot more details, the pros and cons of a merger.”

Beaver trustees on April 16 unanimously voted to approach Butler's board of trustees with the idea.

Nick Neupauer, the Butler college's president, said that the board likely would decide within the next month whether to consider a merger. A merger could take several years, if approved.

Also on April 16, the Beaver board approved a $21.5 million budget for 2013-14 with a $900,000 gap that will be filled with reserves and a 17 percent tuition increase.

Butler in May is expected to approve a $27.3 million budget, according to James Hrabosky, vice president of finance and administration, that raises tuition about 6 percent and raises some fees, for a total increase of 8.75 percent. Butler also would use about $500,000 in reserves to balance the spending plan.

Beaver has 2,251 full-and part-time students, and Butler has 3,875. Butler also has a wider geographical reach, with campuses in Butler, Lawrence, Mercer and Jefferson counties, while Beaver has its campus in Center, an aeronautics program in Chippewa and a Washington County center in Southpointe. Both colleges have cited flat state funding in recent years as budget concerns. Both colleges also receive annual subsidies from their respective county governments, Beaver contributing nearly $3.7 million this year and Butler contributing $4.65 million.

Kissick said it's too soon to know whether a merger would lead to any job cuts, or change how union contracts would be handled. She said it's too early for the college to have discussions with union representatives. But Kissick added that she's in favor of at least exploring a merger.

“We'd like to see what this would look like,” Kissick said.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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