by BRAD ROLLINS
Hays Consolidated Independent School District voters could decide next year whether to join Austin Community College’s taxing district, opening the door for a campus in the Buda/Kyle area.
A similar effort is underway in the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District although ACC officials say it is not as far along as it is in Hays CISD.
A steering committee of local residents, including leaders in the Kyle and Buda chambers of commerce, are laying the groundwork for an annexation election in November 2010, when the college district is expected to try on several fronts to expand its tax base. Supporters say the economic development and job training benefits of having a college campus in the area justify the cost to property owners of assuming the college district’s property tax, about $148 a year under the college district’s current tax rate for the owner of a $160,000 home.
“At the end of the day, we know it is important to expand the middle class and offer more diverse educational opportunities. … The fastest way to pay less taxes in the long run is to have a wider tax base and more economic development. One of fastest ways to do that is to have an educated workforce,” said Ray Hernandez, the Kyle Chamber of Commerce executive director.
If the annexation effort succeeds, Hays CISD property owners would pay 9.45 cents per $100 in property value. In exchange, residents of the school district would pay the district’s $39 per semester credit hour in-distrit tuition and fees rate instead of the out-of-district rate of $137 per semester credit hour. For two full-time semesters of 12 credit hours, that translates to a total in-district cost of $1,296 per year compared to the current rate of $3,648 a year for Hays CISD residents.
In addition, the college district would commit to building a North Hays County campus if voters approve the measure, said ACC President Steve Kinslow. College officials are already reviewing about a dozen potential locations for a campus resulting from a request for proposals from property owners approved by the ACC board. The district hopes to narrow potential locations to two within a few months and announce the campus location ahead of an election next year, Kinslow said.
“The [North Hays Steering Committee] is very organized and very enthusiastic. It shows a lot of foresight on the part of leaders focused on economic development strategies. Obviously Kyle and Buda are going to continue to grow and I think it’s smart for everybody to be looking at forging a stronger relationship between ACC and the local communities,” Kinslow said.
San Marcos and Bastrop school district voters could also consider annexation proposals next year, Kinslow said. Two years ago, the college district canceled an election in San Marcos CISD after forgeries on the petition calling for the election caused a stink.
The North Hays Steering Committee met Oct. 15 to discuss the logistics of asking the ACC board to call an election, a move that requires the petition signatures of five percent of voters in the school district. Those in attendance included local political and business leaders including Buda Mayor Bobby Lane, Buda City Manager Kenneth Williams, Kyle City Manager Tom Mattis and chamber and economic development officials from both cities.
San Marcos Mercury Managing Editor Brad Rollins covers Hays County for the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published.