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Monday, January 18, 2021

Tarrant County College has $825M bond package on Nov. 5 ballot

Along with 10 propositions to amend the Texas constitution, Tarrant County voters will consider a taxpayer-backed $825 million bond package proposed by its community college district on the Nov. 5 election ballot.

Tarrant County College District [TCC] called for the first bond election in about 25 years, seeking funds to construct new facilities as well as improve and repurposing old ones.

Apart from the millions of dollars, what’s at stake in this election is also the future of education in Fort Worth and Tarrant County, said TCC Chancellor Eugene Giovannini

“It will allow us to handle a lot of the growth that’s happened, and that’s critical,” Giovannini told the Business Press. “It will position us – so as students come out of high school or business community is looking for education and training – as the best equipped to continue to be able to deliver.”

The last bond election, in 1993, resulted in the creation of the district’s Southeast Campus. Since then, according to TCC, the student enrollment numbers have nearly doubled.

In fall 2017, there were 52,956 students and about 3,000 full-time faculty at TCC’s six campuses and online.

“We have campuses that are, frankly, getting old, 50 years old or more,” Giovannini said. “As you look at that, over time, the growth that we’ve had and then just the natural wear and tear, it creates a certain need.”

TCC is firmly holding the position that approval of the bond proposition will not increase the district’s property tax rate.

Rather, the plan is to absorb the cost in the existing tax structure. In the proposition, TCC asks voters whether they agree on a debt tax, levied out of their property tax that will be redirected towards paying the bond.

“The cost of financing is low at this point,” TCC’s Chief Operating Officer Susan Alanis said. “By doing this now at a large scale allows us to avoid construction inflation over time. It also allows us to be very strategic and intentional about the way we roll out a capital program at this magnitude.”

Almost all recent capital improvement programs at TCC were cash-funded. Alanis said taking on the debt-enabled bond improvement program provides a more financially-sound opportunity.

TCC’s current tax rate is set at a little over $0.13 per $100 valuation. Alanis said TCC expects about $0.025 will go towards the bond project.

As proposed, the bond project will bring improvements to four distinct areas:

• Redevelopment of TCC Northwest Campus

• Redevelopment of TCC Southeast Campus

• Districtwide infrastructure maintenance and upgrades

• District’s 3G8P initiative, which includes efforts for affordable and accessible college education, continued learning and job-training

“We are the community’s college,” Giovannini said. “That mission has not changed in 50 years or better since the college came to be. But what has changed is the community. As the community changes – and we’re here to serve the community – we have to change, too. That in part is facility needs, technology needs to help support that.”

Early voting for the Joint General and Special Elections of Nov. 5 began Oct. 21 and will end Nov. 1.

Tarrant County has installed 340 polling locations, county-wide.

Arlington residents will also be voting for a $966 million bond package, issued by Arlington ISD Board of Trustees.

For more information on voting in Tarrant County:

https://www.tarrantcounty.com/en/elections/Upcoming-Election-Information.html

Neetish Basnet
Neetish is a writer and digital content producer for Fort Worth Business Press. He has been covering businesses of all shapes and sizes in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex for several years. After graduating with a journalism degree from University of Texas-Arlington, Dow Jones News Fund selected him for a digital media fellowship. He still likes the smell of a freshly printed newspaper.

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