Press "Enter" to skip to content

Jefferson County OH Taxpayers Ask About Cancelling EGCC Tax

 With last week’s announcement that Eastern Gateway Community College in Steubenville, OH will be “pausing” enrollment for the foreseeable future, Jefferson County taxpayers are beginning to take stock of what the school’s imminent closure means. First and foremost, they’re wondering what happens to EGCC’s current tax levy, which has been approved through 2026.

For some residents and local officials, there are more questions than answers about what happens next because publicly funded community colleges don’t crash and burn often enough to warrant having a lot of established procedures in place. But Jefferson County taxpayers will be left holding the bag.

Jefferson County donated the land and passed the tax assessment to build what was then called Jefferson Community College. Even today, Jefferson County residents pay the only tax levy for the college, even though there is a campus 70 miles north in Youngstown in Mahoning County. That means Jefferson County residents have an ownership stake in EGCC.

This situation also shines a light on the lack of local authority that Jefferson County residents have over the millions of dollars they have invested in EGCC over the years. The residents don’t get to elect the EGCC trustees; instead, the Ohio Governor appoints them. EGCC’s trustees aren’t accountable to the residents of Jefferson County; they’re (at least in theory) accountable to the Governor, who has yet to hold them accountable for what’s happened.

Nor does it appear as though the State will take responsibility for making Jefferson County residents whole. Instead, it seems as though the Governor and the Ohio Department of Higher Education have opted for the much more expedient “merger” with Youngstown State University, which is somehow planning to swallow at least some of EGCC’s newly disfranchised students.

Tax funding should provide some control, but usually doesn’t

Jefferson County residents have provided tax funding to EGCC for nearly 60 years. That’s a lot of investment to have to walk away from. But the questions regarding the future of the EGCC millage are legitimate. Why should the residents continue to pay for something they’re no longer getting?

That’s a great question for every taxpayer to ask. WCC, for example, is into the residents of Washtenaw County for four different millages – two of which are permanent. What are the residents of Washtenaw County getting for their INSANELY generous support of WCC? To put some perspective on this, Jefferson County OH residents collectively pay about $1.3M for EGCC. Washtenaw County residents pay more than $70M for WCC.
Unfortunately (for us), the Trustees have signed off on a plan to subsidize the tuition of out-of-district and out-of-state students by way of deep discounts on online tuition. They don’t extend that same break to Washtenaw County students, though. In fact, Washtenaw County students pay a premium to take online courses.

Washtenaw County residents need to ask themselves whether they are comfortable funding discounted tuition to out-of-district and out-of-state students. Then they should ask the WCC Trustees why we’re paying for non-residents to attend our community college? Is it really our responsibility to educate everyone and anyone, regardless of where they live? What benefit do we get out of this strategy? More importantly, how much is this costing us to be so generous?

Photo Credit: Martha Soukup , via Flickr