A model of a proposed San Marcos campus for Austin Community College, unveiled Thursday with the start of a petition drive to place ACC annexation on the November ballot in San Marcos CISD. Photo by Andy Sevilla.
By ANDY SEVILLA
San Marcos ACCess began its petition drive to bring Austin Community College (ACC) into San Marcos CISD Thursday with a pledge that the process will be honest and transparent.
Many San Marcos residents remain leery of ACC after the 2006 petition process, riddled with bamboozlement, ended with findings of signature fraud. ACC ended up pulling its effort to annex the San Marcos school district.
Organizers of the new effort say they’re fighting against lingering bitterness from the last effort. San Marcos ACCess co-chair Kim Porterfield said the firm contracted to gather signatures by the 2006 steering committee, ACC yes, acted “unscrupulous” and did not appropriately reflect the committee or ACC. This time, Porterfield said, the committee is not taking “any paid signatures.”
Nor is the committee hiring a firm to collect signatures. Porterfield said the signatures will be collected by members of San Marcos ACCess and anyone who is interested in getting the initiative on the ballot.
“I think the San Marcos ACCess committee wants to ensure open transparency,” Porterfield said. “We want a dialogue of the pros and cons about bringing ACC to San Marcos, so that people can make an educated, informed decision. We want the voters to decide, but we need to get it on the ballot.”
San Marcos ACCess co-chair and San Marcos High School senior Miguel Arredondo said the late start into getting the petition drive underway can be attributed to the 2006 fiasco. According to the ACC annexation timeline, signature collection could have begun on Nov. 16.
Arredondo said San Marcos ACCess met four or five times in efforts to diminish the “perception” of the 2006 initiative before actually kick-starting the new petition. He said transparency was chief among the committee’s goals and that the committee “needed to have our ducks in a row.”
San Marcos ACCess took on the task of getting at least five-percent of SMCISD registered voters to sign a petition aimed at placing annexation into the ACC district on the November ballot. The committee needs to gather about 2,000 signatures by April 9.
Should voters give the go-ahead in November, San Marcos residents would be eligible for in-district tuition, reducing the cost from $137 per credit hour to $39. ACC would also build a campus near San Marcos High School on the east side of town. In exchange, property owners would be taxes 9.46 cents per $100 of taxable valuation.
ACC has capped its maintenance and operation (M&O) tax rate at nine cents, and an increase can only come about with voter approval. Senior citizens and disabled property owners would receive a $105,000 tax exemption, along with a $5,000 homestead exemption. Seniors also would receive up to six-credit hours of free tuition contingent upon available seating. In-district individuals receive free access to ACC’s Early College Start Program, which allows high school students to earn up to one-year of transferable college credit.
Among the advocates of the proposal who spoke at Thursday’s kick-off ceremony in the San Marcos Public Library were Texas State Provost Perry Moore, Texas State Associated Student Government (ASG) Vice President Tommy Luna, San Marcos Education Foundation Executive Director Daniel Guerrero, San Marcos Chamber of Commerce Governmental Affairs Chair Denise Collazo, and former Chair of the San Marcos ENLACE Coalition Albert Sierra, who also co-chairs the ACC steering committee.
Moore and Luna discussed the benefit ACC would bring to San Marcos, including the offer of certifications that Texas State doesn’t provide.
Moore said community colleges attract business to cities in that the colleges can provide a skilled workforce with proper certification in a year, whereas universities cannot.
“Texas State students will also benefit from certificate programs and other courses that help us pick up other skills not available on the hill to make us more marketable,” said Luna, who added that students, through ACC, can take “inexpensive” summer classes.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) reports that 55 percent of San Marcos CISD’s 2008 graduates didn’t enter college within the year of high school graduation. TEA also reports that about 60 percent of San Marcos CISD students are economically disadvantaged. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that about 50 percent of 25-year-olds in San Marcos have obtained no education beyond a high school diploma, whereas that figure for all of Hays County is below 40 percent.
Porterfield said petition lists are available at the San Marcos Chamber of Commerce, and San Marcos ACCess will soon have a website up with details.Email | Print