WICHITA FALLS(KFDX/KJTL)—A plan to create a new taxing district in Wichita County to support Vernon College’s Wichita Falls campus is in the works and may come to a vote next year.
Vernon college president, Dr. Dusty Johnston, said he’s been working on a branch campus maintenance tax for 10 years now. He said he’s not concerned with timing even with a WFISD bond election in November.
He says he’s aware of the training needs of current and prospective local businesses and industries, and with those needs, he believes the college is going to be asked for more job-training programs and should be able to meet that demand.
Vernon College’s only taxing district is Wilbarger County despite also having a campus in Wichita Falls. It’s been this way since 1970 and programs are funded by a different source.
“As state revenue has declined and as we want to be careful about raising tuition and fees too much, the third source that most campuses rely on is some type of tax funds,” Johnston said.
With a branch campus maintenance tax, 5 cents per $100 of property valuation for Wichita County residents would go towards lowering tuition for Wichita County residents, matching Wilbarger County resident’s tuition, and providing free dual credit courses to Wichita County high schoolers.
“We’re looking to bring in more industry, that industry is going to require some additional training that at this time if we have that program in place, everything’s good, if it’s a new program that we need to stand up, there’s gonna have to be some type of assistance to do that,” Johnston said.
However, not all think this is a good idea.
“This is a tax that does exist in other places, but it doesn’t need to exist in Wichita Falls,” Ed Stein, who is opposing the potential new tax, said.
Those like Ed Stein don’t believe it should fall on taxpayers.
“The feeling is that the college should pay for its own programs, they collect money from students and tuition and other sources,” Stein said.
The process is long, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board first has to approve a feasibility study.
“Once the Coordinating Board approves it, and we expect that in October, then the next part would go to the authority of the County Commissioner’s Court,” Johnston said. “Their involvement is to approve to place it on a ballot.”
If the tax proposal makes it, Wichita County may see it on the ballot next May with continued opposition almost a guarantee.
In fact, those opposed are already planning a campaign against the potential maintenance tax as Dr. Johnston works with a steering committee made up of Wichita County residents.