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Giving new life to the 85-year-old community college, voters approved the expansion of Texarkana College’s taxing district to all of Bowie County in November 2012. The count: 14,345 to 11,082.

Four days later, the successful annexation heightened morale and brought a new charge from the college chief during a faculty and staff event.

“We went from really bad to kind of good, and we’ve got to stay at good and move to great,” said President James Henry Russell, citing the book “Good to Great.” 

Russell said faculty and staff, who have worked tirelessly the past 18 months, must work harder. 

“We’ve got to stay fired up and move to great—more than it’s been in its 85-year history.”  Russell said with the expansion, “we’ve been given our life back.”

Dean of Students Robert Jones, a former president of the faculty association, said TC’s teachers are energized. He said faculty made sacrifices for the college—such as teaching extra classes and paying out of pocket for health care—with no guarantee their efforts were going to pay off. 

“What would we have done if (the annexation) didn’t pass?” he said. “We worked hard and sacrificed a lot, and it would have been for naught.” 

In August, when the board decided to put the annexation on the ballot, the reception was not warm from everyone. For months, it looked like a close race, with letters to the Gazette and comments on the Website from the public. 

W.D. Foerster of Wake Village wrote, “Property owners will need to know that when this tax is put in place, they will have to pay for it ’til they die. 

“This tax can also increase as much as five times without a vote or any input from you.”

Michael Rhoden of Wake Village wrote “before you vote, think of future increases in electric, natural gas, payroll taxes, car registration, telephone, car insurance, water, school lunches and more coming in the future. 

Voters also had other issues to consider: Ross Perot promised millions to the college if the annexation was approved; the possibility of two West Bowie County replacements for the seats held by board members Jean Cotten, who died in August, and Randy Moore, who promised to resign if the annexation was approved; and the $300,000 donation from the Horace C. Cabe Foundation for the expansion of TC@TExAmericas if the annexation was approved.

Earlier in 2012, the college had already shuttered all the athletics. The Southern Association of Colleges and School, the college’s accrediting agency, put the school on warning. The budget was bare bones, and officials were saying there was no other plan if the annexation failed. 

In an October column in the Gazette, Russell told the voters “the future of Texarkana College is in your hands.” 

The same month, many local businesses made sure the public knew how important the college was to them by running multiple advertisements in the Gazette supporting the college.  

In the end, voters listened to Russell, who made 100 presentations to the community. He even held a question-and-answer time on Facebook. 

The new tax bill for property owners with homes valued at $200,000 will be approximately $210.68 a year. The tax will not increase for seniors or the disabled. 

“This community is unbelievable, Russell said after the numbers were coming in on Nov. 6. “This is better than I expected. It shows overwhelming support from the community.”

The college district went from 16 miles to 1,000 square miles including 13 new school districts. The college will collect $3.5 million from the new area. 

On Dec. 13, the board appointed Kyle Davis of New Boston and Anne Farris of DeKalb, the first time anyone living in West Bowie County was made a member of the Texarkana College Board of Trustees. 

All of the board will be up for re-election in November 2013, when the board will be reduced from nine to seven members. 

 

mariemartin@texarkanagazette.com


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