On Aug. 27, the College Preservation Fund was approved by the Tyler Junior College Board of Trustees. The vote for the fund was unanimous and will result in a small increase in the tax rate instead of raising tuition and fees.
“The tax increase will go into effect this year for people who live in our tax district. It won’t affect any resident over 65 years old, and the increase will be less than a penny increase,” Kimberly A. Russell, vice president of Advancement and External Affairs, said.
The increase will provide approximately $900,000 to fund future critical infrastructure needs. TJC’s new tax rate will be .136950 per $100 in valuation, slightly higher than the old rate of .127169 per $100 in valuation and will still remain the lowest rate among community colleges in Texas.
For example, a house valued at $100,000 property tax for TJC will amount to $136.95, whereas the same house last year resulted in $127.17.
“This fund idea was spearheaded by General James K. ‘Red’ Brown. He is the chairman of the board of Lindale I.S.D.,” Russell said. “I think it’s one of the best decisions to preserve TJC’s most precious assets.”
Russell also mentioned that this is the first time a fund strictly for maintenance has been established at TJC and will be instated from now on.
“The reason for Dr. Metke recommending this College Preservation Fund and using the tax funds to create it, is because he’s been here about a year and a half and he’s realized that over the last several months that we have several infrastructure needs,” Fred Peters, director of marketing and public information said. “And it’s not that anyone did anything wrong over the years. We just kept using the old air handlers way beyond their life expectancy. We kept using the chilled water loops and hot water loops way beyond their life expectancy, and instead of someone telling us years ago ‘you know we really need to replace those.’ It’s come to the point now where some of these things are really beginning to fail.”
Foundation problems have caused large cracks in the walls. One Science teacher in Genecov even went so far as to make a science project out of the movement of the wall located in his classroom.
“When we saw the gap we were just curious if it was continuing to move out or if it was stable. It doesn’t seem to be growing rapidly but it is expanding,” Howard E. “Gene” Branum, director of physics and engineering said.
This is Branums 41st year teaching at TJC, and he first noticed the gap about three years ago. Branum said that the students are unaware of the gap and the failing infastrure around them.
“The engineers have told us that the gap poses no immediate problem,” Branum said. “As far as our building is concerned with the air handlers, the temperatures in this part of the building are not easily adjusted. Often times the temperature here during the summer might be 76 or 78 degrees. When you have 30 students in a classroom, it makes things very uncomfortable.”
The College Preservation Fund is broken into two parts. Phase One Critical Infrastructure Needs will address two decades of declining state of Texas appropriation for community colleges and limited funds for maintenance and renovation due to rising enrollment and instructional costs.
Phase Two includes plans for a new nursing & health professions facility. Inside of Phase One is the establishment of the Maintenance Tax Note.
“The analogy is simply riding in a used car, and your tire blows out. You have to fix the tire before you can get back on the road, and this note will allow us the necessary funding for new and expanded facilities,” Russell said.
Russell also said that the Maintenance Tax Note’s life expectancy is 10 years and will be financed through bonds. Once taxpayers finish paying the bond off their taxes will lower.
“Taxpayers should see the increase when they pay their taxes in the spring of 2010,” Russell said.
The Board of Trustees meetings are held the fourth Thursday of every month. The next meeting will be held Sept. 24.