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Bursting at its seams with over 31,000 students, South Texas College recently announced they will be asking Hidalgo and Starr County voters to approve $159 million in construction bonds plus a three-cent increase in maintenance and operation (M&O) taxes. The bond money would be used for the construction and equipping of college facilities. The property tax increase would help pay for the maintenance, staffing and operation costs of the college, including new buildings.
The proposed construction bonds would increase the tax rate by one-half cent, making the total proposed increase 3 ½ cents. The current tax rate for STC is 15 cents. With the proposed increase, the new tax rate would be 18 ½ cents per $100 valuation.
To accommodate current student enrollment growth rates and educational needs, the college wants to build four new buildings at the Pecan Campus; expand the Nursing and Allied Health and Technology campuses in McAllen; construct Health Professions and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) classrooms and expansions at the Mid Valley Campus in Weslaco; construct a Health Professions and Science Center, expand technical workforce training facilities, construct a new library and expand the current one for a Cultural Arts Center and expand two other buildings at the Starr County Campus in Rio Grande City; establish a Regional Center for Public Safety to provide training for law enforcement in Pharr; and develop STEM labs and entry level workforce training programs at the STC teaching site at La Joya ISD.
Dr. Shirley A. Reed, president of STC, said they are responding to the immediate needs of the community and workforce. Twenty years ago, the college started out with just over 1,000 students and a mission to help put people to work and provide a better quality of life. This is what STC wants to continue to provide for every student that comes through its doors, she said.
In a presentation at the Mission Chamber of Commerce Buenas Tardes Luncheon Wednesday, Reed said, “If we change the life of one graduate, we have changed the life of that entire family and also changed the lives of everyone in that future generation.”
We change their lives by helping them be prepared for a good job, added Reed.
Reed said STC is a pipeline for the University of Texas-Pan American. Last fall, out of 19,000 students attending UTPA, 13,000 had previously attended STC. The 2012 graduating class from UTPA, included 2,129 students who previously attended STC.
With dual enrollment classes for high school students, STC has served over 67,000 students through classes and early college high schools, tuition free, saving families over $71 million in tuition costs since 2003. Nearly 1,500 students from Mission and Sharyland school districts were enrolled in dual enrollment college courses last year. STC has also helped over 3,000 students through their high school dropout recovery programs, according to Reed.
There are currently nearly 5,000 students from the Mission area attending STC.
Reed said the construction bond payment part of the tax rate, currently at four cents, has actually decreased since 2001. When a construction bond was passed in 2001, the construction bond payment portion was increased from eight to 11 cents. This is a number that can decrease over time, depending on the debt amount.
In addition to paying for the maintenance and operations of the new buildings, staffing and supplies, the three-cent tax increase for M&O would also help develop new programs, hire additional faculty and serve the anticipated growth.
With the proper tax exemption, senior citizens ages 65 and over and the disabled will not pay the increased taxes if it is approved by the voters.
The election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 5, with early voting set for October 21-November 1. There will be two propositions on the ballot, one for the $159 million in construction bonds and the other for the three-cent increase for maintenance and operation.
For more information, go to http://bond2013.southtexascollege.edu/
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.