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TEXARKANA, Texas—Fourteen people stated their opinions on Texarkana College's proposed tax increase Monday during the second of two public hearings on the measure. All but two spoke in favor of the higher rate, which is $0.123081 per $100 of taxable property value. The current tax rate is $0.118115 per $100 in taxable value.

TC President Dr. Jason Smith said the increase will generate $300,000 for the general budget to repay the $10 million in municipal bonds to be used to bring the campus into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities act, as required by the federal government. Parking lot and pavement improvements are included, along with the renovation of the college's old Health Science and the current Biology Building.

"We want to get the buildings in compliance," Smith said. "We need to get those in compliance. We have students with disabilities. We have community members who use our facilities every day that need to have easy access to our facilities, so it is something that we need to get corrected."

He said the board was fully aware that nobody likes a tax increase and that with the increase, the tax rate is lower than the state average of $0.1837 and that the college has the tenth lowest tax rate of the state's 50 community colleges.

Smith added that the increase, if passed, would not affect those 65 and older who have filed for homestead exemption. Those with the exemption are also encouraged to go to the Bowie County Central Appraisal District to make sure they are getting the full exemption.

Dennis Lewis said that he supported the college and that it was vital to the health and well being of the community, as it provides academic and workforce training.

"An educated workforce is one of the highest factors, if not the number one factor, for new companies looking for relocation to Texarkana," he said. "You've got to have an educated workforce." He said that the without the workforce education TC provides in partnership with Texas A&M University-Texarkana, that the area would have a slim chance of getting new industry in the area as large as Red River Army Depot. Lewis also said that TC provides essential training to those who work at the depot.

"Texarkana College meets that need," he said. "I take pride in, and each of you can take pride in, knowing that our tax dollars are well spent and they're playing a role in the educating and success of so many individuals. In conclusion, we need Texarkana College. It's time to start taking care of years of deferred maintenance. I understand why it's there. You've got to take care of it. You've got to prepare for the future and it's time to come into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. There's no option. You've got to do it.

Matthew Lorimer, who spoke in favor of the increase at the first meeting, said he still supported the tax, even though his neighbors in DeKalb gave him a lot of negative feedback for doing so. He said he supported the increase because it is supporting the education of blue-collar workers, including nurses, firefighters, welders and chefs.

"No matter what you do, it's the people that do that kind of work that make a difference in this country," he said. "Who would do all these services if not for a college like this that promotes it? It's important. I do support it."

Several others also spoke in support of the increase, including Max Kirk, Brian Goesl, Pat Morgan, Doug Williams, Ben Franks, Cliff Robertson, Marshall McKellar and David Williams.

Richard Roberts said that while the college should be commended for all it has done, including having the highest completion rate of all 50 community colleges in the state, he opposed the tax increase.

"The Bowie County citizens are taxed too much. They do not want a tax increase for Texarkana College. It's not that we don't support Texarkana College, it's just concern of why do you want more when you've had more and more and more?" he said. "There are a large number of people who can't attend these meetings due to work requirements, children, et cetera, that do not support the tax increase. I appreciate what you're doing, but there are citizens in Bowie County that do not support the tax increase."

Jack Allensworth Jr., who graduated from TC with an associate's degree, also said that he was against the tax increase. He said he was president of Parks Metal Fabricators and that he employs people for whom the taxes would be a big deal.

"I see it really affecting a lot of people each time we go to get an increase," he said. "I am against this. I care for the college, but I see how it impacts people around me each time a tax is increase. That's less money I have for bonuses, for raises, for people of the community that I employ. I hope you reconsider this and know there are some people for it, but there are some against it based on the increases we keep seeing."

Scott Norton, executive director/CEO of TexAmericas Center, spoke in favor of the increase and said that TC plays an essential role in increasing the educational opportunities in the region.

"If we are going to recruit businesses to this region, we must have an educated workforce, an educated population throughout this area," he said. "An educated community is important in working to recruit new businesses to the area and also working to retain local businesses that we are fortunate to have in this region. Workforce development is a vital part of what Texarkana College provides to this community." Norton added that TexAmericas supports TC through a partnership that allows better training for workers at the depot, customized training for those who have businesses at the redevelopment authority and that the college offers vocational dual credit courses for high school students in western Bowie County.

Bill Gooding, who spoke last on Monday, said he supported the increase and that it was a good thing so many county residents attended the hearing to voice their opinion on the proposed increase.

"I support this proposed tax increase but at the same time, I think it's helpful for the board to hear these comments because you do need to be vigilant on keeping costs under control," he said. "I propose that you go forward with the tax increase. When you consider the value that Texarkana College provides to this community it certainly justifies this modest increase."

The board will vote on the proposed increase during their regular August meeting, scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Monday in the Patman Room of the Truman Arnold Student Center, 2500 North Robison Road, Texarkana, Texas.