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story.lead_photo.caption Texarkana College's president, Dr. Jason Smith, gives a presentation of why the college is deciding to do a half of a cent increase in tuition at a public hearing on Monday, August 12, 2019, in Texarkana, Texas. The hearing was open to the public to comment on the proposed tax increase to the county for the college to improve it's facilities for students. (Staff photo by Hunt Mercier)

TEXARKANA, Texas — Several Bowie County residents spoke in favor of Texarkana College's proposed tax increase Monday during the first public hearing on the measure.

The 8% increase would raise the current rate of $0.118115 per $100 in taxable property value to $0.123081. If approved, it would generate $300,000 for the general budget and be used to help repay $10 million in municipal bonds the college took in February for campus improvements, including compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, renovations to two science buildings and parking lot improvements.

DeKalb resident Matthew Lorimer said he moved to Bowie County from California, where taxes are extremely high and told the board he thinks it's important to take care of colleges because they help improve the community.

"The incarceration rate for drug problems in Bowie County is out of control," Lorimer said, referring to a tax adjustment, not a hike, the county is proposing to give more funding to the jail. "I hope your college will take the time with students and faculty and maybe you can turn some lives around maybe each other can help each other in some kind of way. It's important that everybody works together."

He went on to say that nobody likes tax increases, but that this one was worth the funding. "I can support this," he said. "It's reasonable and I think you're doing the right thing. You have a great community. I hope it keeps growing and I just wanted to give my support."

Vernon Wilder also spoke in favor of the proposal and said he, his wife, his children and grandchildren all began their college careers at TC and that he sees the value of an educated community.

"I'm just here to say I support it," he said. "If it was going to a (public) vote, I'd be out there knocking on doors and asking for help. I appreciate what you ladies and gentlemen do. I know it's a hard job. I stand behind you and my family does, too."

Ben Franks, LaCrecia Barry, Dan Boyles and Dennis Lewis also told the board they were in favor of the increase, with Lewis stating that the college is vital to the health and well being of the community and that it is the only source for workforce education in Northeast Texas.

"TC offers an affordable education and is invaluable to the Red River Army Depot," he said. "It has changed the lives of those who otherwise would never set foot on a college campus."

Brett McClaran also spoke in favor of the increase and said that the tax is not an enemy of the community. He added that both he and his children have greatly benefited from the services the college provides.

"I figure TC saved me around $50,000 in tuition and living expenses," he said. "At $128 a year, I will never repay what I owe them for providing this valuable service."

He went on to say the college cannot fund the cost with just tuition funds and that if that were so, TC would be a private community college.

"I am willing to help my fellow man that is willing to work to better himself," McClaran said. "Texarkana College gives me the opportunity to do just that."

Lance Cheatham also addressed the board and asked if there was a plan in place to lower the tax or to do away with it in the future. TC President Dr. Jason Smith said he would talk him about the topic after the hearing.

A second hearing will be held at 11:30 a.m. Aug. 19 in the Patman Room of the Truman Arnold Student Center. Trustees will vote on the tax rate during their regular meeting, scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 26 in the same location.

More information on the tax proposal is available at www.texarkanacollege.edu.

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