Four Bowie County residents spoke during a public hearing Monday on a proposed tax at Texarkana College, one saying he thought the school had become a "money pit."
Doug Crisp addressed TC's board of trustees, stating that both he and his wife were honor graduates of the school and that they were grateful for the low tuition they paid to get their education. He went on to say he wasn't against the college, that he was simply against the tax, which would generate $340,000 for the 2017-18 budget.
"There are many pros and cons about taxes and there are many ways how to present them," he said. "I am for higher education, but not at the expense of Bowie County citizens. We have a public school system, kindergarten through 12 that we have to supportit seems that TC is like a money pit. We just keep adding and paying more."
Monday's hearing was the second opportunity the public has had to address the board on the proposed increase from 11.0718 cents to 11.8115 cents per $100 assessed property value. TC has struggled to survive in the past few years due to a reduction in state funding, with President James Henry Russell stating that they now receive $3 million less than in 2008.
In 2011, billionaire Ross Perot, a TC alum, gave the college $1 million a year for five years to fill in those gaps, but that funding ended last year. In 2015, the board was considering raising the tax to 11.3 cents, which would have generated $400,000 annually, but an anonymous donor gave them $1 million on the condition that trustees keep the tax rate the same for at least one year.
Last year, trustees increased the tax for the first time in five years, going from 10.5267 cents to the current rate, a move which generated $300,000 for the budget.
Crisp went on to state that the board should run the college like a business and operate within a budget based on revenue and private donations.
"The Texarkana College board of trustees' goal should always be to relieve the citizens of Bowie County the tax burden and not use it as a means to balance the budget," he said. "Everything is great here, it's just that we should not have to go to the citizens of Bowie County and ask for increases year after year."
Bowie County residents Don Morriss, Dean Barry and Mike Craven all spoke in favor of the increase, with Morriss stating that TC's nursing program was a huge asset to the community.
"If you want to know the value of Texarkana College, the next time you go to the doctor's office or the hospital, ask your nurse where they were trained," he said.
"Odds are, they were trained at Texarkana College. It's my understanding the proposed tax increase will be approximately 77 cents per month for the average home.
That's a bargain to have the best-trained professionals to help when we need medical care."
Barry, a TC grad, said he felt strongly about the future of the school and was aware of the struggles to make ends meet and keep the doors open.
"You have to keep up with inflation," he said. "Either you keep up with inflation or you lose every part of your business, including salaries including upkeep of the institution," he said. "I urge this board to constantly think about trying to do something to have a constant method of increasing taxes a small amount so you can keep up with inflation."
Craven, who owns three businesses in the county, said he's been involved in supporting TC's programs, including those through the construction technology department, because they have led to jobs in the community. He added that he's watched how the state has cut funds to community colleges and that he's aware of the cuts TC has made to balance the budget.
"I've been extremely pleased with the improvement that has gone on with the fiscal responsibility that this board of trustees and this administration, this staff and the faculty have taken at TC to reduce expenses every way possible and yet produce quality results in higher education," he said. "I'm here to speak in favor of the tax rate proposed."
Trustees will vote on the tax during their next meeting, scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Aug. 28 in the Patman Room of the Truman Arnold Student Center, 2800 N. Robison Road, Texarkana, Texas.