At a public hearing on Thursday, July 21, 2016, TC President James Henry Russell discussed the possibility of the Board of Trustees calling for an annexation election to allow voters in TC’s service area in Cass County to decide whether to join the College’s taxing district. The public hearing, held at Atlanta Middle School, gave residents the opportunity to hear first-hand TC’s proposed plans for its service area in Cass County, including a dedicated workforce training site, reduced tuition rates and increased dual credit offerings for high schools in the area.
While Texarkana College’s service area is designated by the State of Texas, voters in the service area decide whether to be a part of its taxing district. Since the early 1900s when the State determined all community college service districts, TC has provided services to all of Bowie County, a small portion of Red River County, and most of Cass County, including Atlanta, Bloomburg, Linden-Kildare, McLeod, and Queen City. Currently, TC’s taxing district includes only Bowie County enabling students from this area to pay lower in-district tuition rates for courses offered at our main campus, dual credit courses offered on high school campuses, web-based online courses, and courses at learning sites at TC@TexAmericas Center in New Boston and TC on Main in Atlanta.
At the public hearing, Russell said joining TC’s taxing district would allow the College to expand programs and services that are needed to meet workforce training needs in Cass County and reach the goals of 60x30TX, the State’s higher education plan. 60x30TX calls for at least 60 percent of Texans age 25-34 to have earned a college credential by the year 2030.
“60% of all new jobs in the year 2020 will require some type of college credential,” Russell said. “Right now, we have a long way to go on a local, as well as a state level, to meet the 60x30TX challenge. If you look at data from the American Community Survey (2014), only 18.3% of people in Cass County have earned an associate degree or higher. If we are going to make a dent in reaching the state’s goals, we must have a plan in place and do all we can to assure access to affordable, quality higher education in our region.”
During the presentation, Russell said TC has a solid track record of serving students from Cass County by providing high school students with dual credit options. In 2015-2016, Cass County high school students from TC’s service area earned 1,892 college credit hours via dual credit, saving almost $1.5 million compared to tuition at the average state four-year university. In addition, upon high school graduation, Cass County residents select TC as their school of choice to start their college career.
“Consistently, over the last five years, more than half of graduates from each of your school districts have enrolled at Texarkana College,” Russell said. “For Fall 2016, we are proud to announce that over 20 Cass County students will receive the prestigious TC Presidential Scholarship award for a full-ride to receive an associate degree or certificate. This scholarship program, funded entirely by donors through our Foundation, is offered to area students who rank in the top ten or top 15% of their graduating class. This fall, TC will have close to eighty total Presidential Scholars.”
Russell said that with dwindling state funding, it will be challenge to continue services to Cass County without help from taxpayers.
“On November 8, voters in TC’s service area in Cass County will have the opportunity to decide whether to join the TC taxing district,” said Russell. “This decision will decide the course of future services available to this area from Texarkana College. While we will continue to provide service to residents without revenue generated through taxes, we will be limited in scope to what we are able to provide. If voters choose to join the district, we assure you that your return on investment will be noticeable.”
After joining the district, property owners would begin paying an estimated tax rate of $0.111285 in Fall 2017, which amounts to a little over $7 per month for the average Cass County homeowner. The $1 million annual net income the tax generates would be reinvested in Cass County to provide expanded programs and services, including a dedicated workforce training site. Historically, Texarkana College has the lowest tax rate in the region and falls far below the state average. Once annexed, Russell noted that tax rates would remain low.
“TC has a history of maintaining a low, stable tax rate that falls well below the average for the fifty state community college districts,” Russell said. “The reinvestment of funds into the new taxing district will allow TC to offer programs and courses that you tell us you want. We will respond to your needs.”
In addition to increased services, Cass County voters in the newly annexed district would have representation on the TC Board of Trustees. Currently, there are seven members of the TC Board of Trustees, all from Bowie County.