By GREG RUSSELL
Register Staff Writer
Efforts of a political action committee organized on behalf of North Central Texas College (NCTC) may raise the awareness necessary to help pass a $14.8 million bond during November elections.
NCTC officials and committee volunteers stressed the importance of the investment, emphasizing the impact that campus expansion will have on future education.
The option to subsidize an improvement package with taxpayer dollars, they said, is the key alternative to raising tuition to expand NCTC programs.
“I see it as a major economic drive,” volunteer Ryan Morris said Friday. “It’s not just about the students spending more money here but the increase of the quality of life for the average citizen.”
The bond, earmarked for three facility upgrades to the NCTC Gainesville campus, is a scaled-down version of a $30.7 million proposal that failed to pass in November 2011. That earlier proposal included the development of a new health science center, a new student and academic support center, a new agriculture building, a new campus parking lot and the renovations needed to turn a current campus building into a student activities center.
Morris said many of these upgrades are intended to boost specialty training at NCTC to the highest possible level.
“They give terrific two-year programs that allow people to go from a high school education to having a vocation that can provide a massive increase in income,” Morris said, citing medical and energy industry job opportunities in the area. “And our market is able to absorb those, evidenced by the fact that we have an employment rate of less than 5 percent in Gainesville and a high wage mark for our demographic.”
But the current bond, if passed, would pay only for the health center, parking lot and expansions to the campus career technology center. NCTC President Eddie Hadlock admitted the original bond package may have seemed too high to many local voters.
He also said the “crowded conditions” on campus still persist and need a solution.
“We went back and took out the things that people said they didn’t like and focused strictly on the instructional space,” Hadlock said Friday. “We still have those other needs, but it’s critical to have the instructional space — and while the other things are essential, we can find other ways to compensate for it.”
According to a special website developed by the committee, taxpayers under age 65 will see a raise of $3.29 per month per $100,000 of property value if the bond passes. Taxpayers over age 65 pay nothing. Morris said NCTC serves as a prime example of fiscal stewardship when such increases occur, with tax rates generally lower than observed in other districts.
“Our college has been responsible with their capital investments and their budgets,” he said. “That’s evidenced by the fact that it’s significantly lower than the typical college tax rate, even after this bond is passed.”
One persistent argument against a multimillion-dollar bond that increases taxes for county residents is twofold: Nobody wants higher taxes, and some have declared it unfair that only local citizens pay for expansions that benefit so many out-of-county students.
But Hadlock said the Gainesville NCTC campus count is around 2,400, and only around 1,000 of those students are county residents.
The bond package, he said, would give all of them new advantages.
“If we didn’t have so many of our out-of-county students here, we wouldn’t be able to offer a lot of the programs that are available to Cooke County residents,” he said. “And if we only existed with those thousand students, our curriculum would be greatly reduced and there would be reduced opportunities for everyone.
“We have to think more globally,” he said. “Not just of Cooke County, but the whole north Texas region.”
Morris agreed, comparing the NCTC Gainesville campus to a business in need of an investment so that it can thrive.
“This is no different,” he said. “If we want our college to continue to be successful, we have to make proud investments in it.”
More information about taxation, expansion plans and voting opportunities is available at www.supportnctc.com.