HCC Board of Trustees approves 2012 bond referendum
The Houston Community College Board of Trustees took bold steps to ensure the future of the 40-year-old institution with 6 trustees voting for, one against, one abstention and one absent in favor of putting a $425 million bond referendum on the ballot for the November 6 election. The funds will be allocated for new facilities, improvements and acquisitions needed to prepare for the future economic prosperity of the Greater Houston area.
The bond referendum takes into account the current and long-term academic success and workforce readiness essential to the economic growth of the Houston region. The decision for the bond referendum is based on the inadequate infrastructure of the college’s older facilities, exceeding capacity, keeping up with technology and, most importantly, listening to the advice and concerns of the college’s stakeholders, including tax payers.
The expectations of the college continue to rise, and the demand for HCC’s services and collaboration far outpace its current infrastructure and resources. Since 2007, the college has grown by 40%, and is currently operating at 92% capacity. As enrollment continues to increase with the area’s population growth, HCC must grow and expand to meet the expected demand. The college needs additional buildings to keep up with that growth. Most of HCC’s facilities are either near capacity or have exceeded capacity. To illustrate the need for more space, HCC’s Coleman College for Health Sciences was originally built to accommodate 1,500 students, but now serves 3,500, with some students having to actually schedule their lab hours past midnight.
With Houston’s rapid growth and increasing demand for education and training, HCC recognizes that its actions today will define the Houston of tomorrow. HCC’s leadership is committed to ensuring that its plans and fiscal responsibilities are completely transparent and available to the widest audience of constituents possible. Last Spring HCC conducted 10 community forums that asked for and received input from area community and business leaders, residents and public officials, taxpayers and students. The constituents understand the college’s growth and its need to expand. It is their input that has shaped the bond referendum and the HCC Board and administration are comfortable that the benefits far outweigh the cost. Throughout the last half of the 2012, the HCC Board of Trustees and administration will provide the community, its residents and officials within the HCC district, opportunities to receive information and provide feedback about the college’s programs, accomplishments and plans.
HCC trains the nurses and medical technicians for the region. Healthcare training requires the most recent technology for certification. In order to meet the requirements to produce the skilled healthcare workforce Houston needs, the college must purchase costly medical equipment to provide the quality training necessary for healthcare jobs. HCC must also prepare Houston’s workforce for the technical and energy-related jobs that are becoming more prevalent in the area’s diverse economic marketplace. To maintain Houston’s leadership in these areas, the proposed measure will allocate funding for workforce development in energy and the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
In a recent study of the perceptions of Houston’s business climate, two factors relate directly to HCC: first, one of the city’s most critical needs is the availability of skilled labor, and secondly, among the more important factors concerning Houston businesses is good colleges and universities. Keeping Houston working and positioned as the most economically viable city in the country depends upon having a strong and job-relevant community college, one that is able to adapt to the slow economic period and that will build as conditions allows. The Houston community is at a critical juncture, and the current trend shows that 80% of all new jobs require at least 2 years of postsecondary education. However, economics and increases in 4-year tuition have made a college education unaffordable for many. HCC’s affordability, flexibility and quality education makes it the number one developer in Houston of workforce-ready candidates.
What will this bond referendum cost Houston’s homeowners? The average cost of a house in Houston is $150,000 and they can expect to pay an additional $30.92 a year, but this is dependent upon the fluctuation in property valuation. The measure being proposed by the HCC Board of Trustees includes a slight tax rate increase of 2 cents over a thirty-year period. Even with this small increase, HCC’s tax rate is still lower than other taxing districts in the region and one of the lowest in the state.