|McALLEN, August 26 - Why is South Texas College’s bond election in November necessary? Will senior citizens and the disabled pay increased property taxes as a result? Does STC serve students from Mexico?
Dr. Shirley Reed, president of South Texas College, gets asked these and other questions a lot. So, Reed and STC’s public information office have produced a booklet entitled “Frequently Asked Question and Answer” to explain the college’s upcoming $159 million bond and maintenance election.
“This will be the third bond election I have led before the voters and I am asked much the same questions each time,” Reed told the Guardian.
“I have saved all the questions I have been asked and I have tried to update the answers. I encourage our voters to take the time to review this. It is available on the STC website. So, if you want to learn about the election, if you want to learn about construction, and if you want to see answers to the questions you probably have about the college, go to www.bond2013.southtexascollege.edu.”
The STC election takes place on Election Day, Nov. 5, with early voting running between Oc. 21 and Nov. 1. Voters in Hidalgo and Starr counties are being asked to vote on two propositions.
Proposition No. 1 asks voters if they support the issuance of $159,028,940 million in 20-year general obligation bonds to fund the construction and equipping of new classrooms, science and health care training labs, technical training facilities and student support services at all the College’s campuses. A tax rate increase of one-half cent will be necessary to fund the general obligation bonds for the construction of equipping of new facilities.
Proposition No. 2 asks voters if they support a three-cent increase in the annual tax rate to pay for the increased maintenance and operation costs associated with the operation of the new facilities, growth in student enrollment, new faculty, and expanded programs.
Here are some of the questions Dr. Reed gets asked a lot, along with a condensed version of her answers. The full answers can be found on the STC website.
Q) Why is an election necessary?
A) STC enrollment has increased by 147 percent since the 2001 bond election 12 years ago. Fall 2011 enrollment was 12,472 students and increased to 30,824 in the fall of 2012. STC cannot accommodate the growth in student enrollment without additional classrooms, science and health care teaching labs, and technical training facilities in Hidalgo and Starr counties.
Q) Do taxpayers in Starr County pay the same tax rate as taxpayers in Hidalgo County?
A) Yes. Taxpayers in both Hidalgo and Starr counties pay the same tax rate.
Q) Will senior citizens and the disabled pay increased property taxes for STC?
A) No. STC has frozen property taxes for senior citizens over the age of 65 and the disabled who have filed the proper exemption forms with the appropriate county Tax Office in Hidalgo and/or Starr County. Seniors and Disabled with the proper exemption will not pay increased taxes to support STC even if the requested tax increase is approved by the voters.
Q) Does STC serve students from Mexico?
A) STC was created to serve students from Hidalgo and Starr counties. Students who do not reside in Hidalgo or Starr counties must pay out-of-district tuition. Students from Mexico who are not Texas residents or residents from Hidalgo or Starr counties pay even higher out-of-state tuition, which is three times as much as students from Hidalgo or Starr counties. There has been a common misunderstanding that STC is growing because of students from Mexico. This is not the case. Fewer than one percent of the students enrolled at STC are non-residents of Hidalgo and Starr counties.
Q) How will the merger of UTPA and UTB and the establishment of a medical school impact STC?
A) The merger of the University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) and the University of Texas-Brownsville (UTB) will make the role of STC more critical than ever. As of Fall 2012, 13,014 students who previously attended STC were attending UTPA and 67 percent of UTPA’s May 2012 graduating class previously attended STC. The need for STC to provide well prepared transfer students will only increase with the establishment of the new university. The anticipated increase in admissions standards by the new university will route additional students to STC to prepare for the more competitive admission criteria. STC’s affordable tuition will also be a factor and will encourage students to begin and complete an associate degree’s with STC prior to beginning the transfer process to the new university.
Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series the Guardian is running this week on South Texas College’s upcoming $159 million bond and maintenance election. Tune in on Tuesday, August 26, for Part Two.