Proposed tax cap has area college officials worried

(Staff photo)
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(KWTX) Officials at some area community colleges are concerned a proposed property tax cap will have a major impact on their schools.

Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republican lawmakers are pushing a proposal that would require local entities including cities, counties, school districts and community college districts to seek voter approval of tax rates that boost revenues by 2.5 percent or more.

The current cap is 8 percent and residents now must gather enough petition signatures to force a rollback election.

Under the proposed measure, a rollback election would be triggered automatically.

Supporters say the measure would help ease the burden on property owners, but opponents say it would tie the hands of local officials faced with rising costs and unfunded state mandates.

Because community colleges receive a large part of their revenue from property taxes, officials are worried specifically about the impact it would have on tuition costs.

Dr. Van Miller, chief financial officer at Temple College, said if this cap had been in place for the last five years, students would now be paying $112 per semester hour instead of $99 per semester credit hour.

Miller said this would be almost $200 more per semester for students taking a full course load.

Temple College said it relies on local property taxes for about 25 percent of its budget.

“Last year, the college received approximately $225,000 in additional revenue from property taxes due to increased property valuations in its taxing district,” Temple College said in a statement.

“The college used this additional revenue to keep tuition increases to a minimum. Had the proposed 2.5 percent tax cap been in place, the college would have had to come up with $200,000 from other sources, most likely student tuition, to offset increased operating costs.”

Temple College representatives along with many other college representatives have been speaking with leaders at the capital on this issue.

McLennan Community College President Dr. Johnette McKown has been traveling to Austin every week since the session started.

“We are all concerned about it. We want to be fair, we want to work with our legislatures and make sure that they understand what the consequences are,” McKown said.

“We want the legislators to know that we understand they have challenges just like we do. So we are seeking to be partners and come up with a solution that recognizes all of us.”

Central Texas College officials share the concern.

“In past legislative sessions unfunded mandates have created a financial burden on CTC,” the school said in a statement.

“We are working with our legislators so we can continue to provide exceptional value to our students and create economic value to our community and taxpayers. Specifically, we are working with legislators to add a provision to the existing ‘Local Government Relief for Disabled Veterans Exemption,’ to include colleges like Central Texas College, who have a large enrollment of military service member and veteran students and are located in a city adjacent to a U.S. military base. This would allow us compensation from the state for the lost local tax revenue due to the disabled veterans tax exemption.”