On January 1 of this year, I wrote about a College of the Mainland bond request that the voters of Texas City, TX would be asked to consider. The $250M issue would fund the construction of four new buildings and the demolition of four old ones, rehabilitation of two others, and support for new programs. The request would raise property taxes in the district by about $33 per $100,000 of valuation. The election was earlier this month, and as predicted the voters approved the bond.
College of the Mainland (COM) is not large. It enrolls about 4,000 students and has an annual budget of $38M. Further, the voters approved an earlier bond request in 2018 that paid for “phase 1” of the project. The interesting part of this election is that the voters approved the bond measure by four (4) votes. (5878 votes were cast in the election.) Nonetheless, a win is a win and the voters have given COM the additional funding to carry out its Master Plan.
COM isn’t in the habit of asking voters for money. The 2018 bond request was the college’s first request since it opened in 1966. But the reality is that the facilities built in 1966 won’t last forever. In an article about the bond vote, the COM spokesperson explained that prior to the first bond issue in 2018, the college had no ability grow (lack of space), which meant that it could not offer new programs nor increase its enrollment substantially.
In a press release issued after the election, COM president Warren Nichols said: “Voters agreed to invest in College of the Mainland, which now allows us to create innovative learning environments, provide new programs to meet our emerging workforce demands and accommodate our growing enrollment.”
Bond request is the community’s responsibility
“Voters agreed to invest in College of the Mainland.”
Which is how it should be. Voters in the district – not the students enrolled in the school – should pay for capital improvements. After all, the community college is a community investment. The community agreed to build and fund it. The community should also maintain and improve it, not only for the benefit of the students, but also the benefit of the community as a whole.
The approach the WCC Board of Trustees has taken on capital improvements since 1997 has been ass-backwards. It is not the students’ responsibility to shoulder the burden of increasingly expensive capital improvements. Especially when the “improvements” include buildings the voters would never approve, like a quasi-private fitness center.
WCC will never be able to grow and improve as long as the Board of Trustees makes the students responsible for underwriting capital improvements and new program development.
Photo Credit: The COM Library , via Flickr