San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

April 3rd, 2010
Letter to the editor: ACC petition is about control

To the editor:

In 2006, Austin Community College put forward a petition to annex the SMCISD for junior college purposes. The word “tax” never appeared on the petition or the proposed election ballot, although the intention was to annex the SMCISD into ACC’s taxing district. At that time, opponents to the annexation exposed ACC’s certification of its blatantly fraudulent petition that contained nearly 900 questionable signatures, forcing ACC to cancel its scheduled election. As a result of those efforts, SMCISD residents have had a tax savings in excess of $10.5 million for the period from 2007 through 2010 at no apparent adverse effect on ACC, which offers classes at San Marcos CISD facilities and reports a current enrollment of 729 area students.

Contrary to emails and statements by ACC petition advocates, the ACC petition is not about “bringing ACC to San Marcos.” ACC has been holding classes in SMCISD facilities and classrooms for at least the last ten years. ACC’s current offerings include day classes at one of the old high school buildings and night classes at the new high school, where ACC also has an office. ACC courses are also available over the Internet.

For a number of years, ACC has had the exclusive right to provide junior college services for Hays and Caldwell Counties and, in about 2005, it acquired the exclusive right to provide junior college services for the entire SMCISD, including a portion of Guadalupe County.

The ACC petition is not about ACC being able to provide equivalent services to SMCISD as an out-of-district facility (out of the taxing district), as it could through being an in-district facility. Although the current law prevents ACC from building and/or owning its own facility in SMCISD, unless it is a part of their taxing district, the law does not prevent ACC from developing a full service, out-of-district facility within SMCISD, by leasing an existing building or buildings in a like manner as Blinn Junior College at College Station, which serves as many as 10,000 Texas A&M students, who pay out-of-district tuition due to College Station being outside the Blinn taxing district. According to ACC’s president, ACC has optioned to lease, rather than own, the new Round Rock facility (an in-district facility) from a separate, non-profit, owner- builder entity, in order to avoid incurring bonded indebtedness for the cost of the facility. The only tangible and non-speculative economic benefit resulting from      annexation whereby SMCISD would become part of ACC’s taxing district would be the reduced, in-district tuition to resident students (including Texas State students) during the period they are enrolled in classes at ACC.

Under ACC’s proposed development plan, it would require 24-30 months to complete construction of Phase I in order to serve 700 students (29 less than currently served at SMCISD facilities). The time frame and cost for leasing and converting an existing structure, such as the Springtown Mall or the soon-to-be-vacated Hays County Justice Center, would be considerably less.

What the ACC petition is really about is tax money, power, control, and priorities.

Tax money: Annexation of SMCISD by ACC would result in establishing a new taxing authority and additional taxes on residences (subject to homestead, etc. exemptions), business real estate (including rental property), and business equipment and inventory.  Based on ACC’s current tax rate and the net taxable property value for 2009 (furnished by the Central Appraisal District), ACC, as a separate and additional taxing authority, would collect approximately $3 million dollars in taxes per year from SMCISD property owners, which would be forwarded to ACC in Austin and be subject to the sole control of their Austin-elected board of directors. The amount of the annual tax could increase, based on either an increase in the tax rate voted by the ACC board of directors or by increase in the net taxable property value for SMCISD taxable properties.

This additional tax burden would necessarily result in an increased cost of living for all SMCISD residents, including Texas State residents, and an increased cost of doing business for all businesses owning or leasing taxable property within the SMCISD. Rents are usually adjusted based on increases in property taxes, which are passed on by landlord/owners to their tenants. Therefore, residential renters, including all Texas State residential renters, would necessarily incur an increased rental expense during their period of residency in San Marcos. Only those Texas State students who would be entitled to ACC in-district tuition would receive the reduced tuition offset during the period they are enrolled at ACC, but they would pay increased rentals for the entire period they reside in SMCISD.

Power and control: SMCISD voter approval of the annexation of SMCISD into the ACC taxing district would change what is now a partnership between ACC and SMCISD into a virtual ACC dictatorship. The legal consequence of annexation by ACC is that SMCISD residents would be subject to a non-revocable legal obligation during the existence of ACC to annually provide millions of dollars in tax payments to ACC, while assuming joint liability for ACC’s multi-millions in bonded indebtedness, without any recourse by SMCISD residents in connection with ACC’s use of the funds, increases in tax rate or tuition rates, or failure to meet their representations. This extremely one-sided legal obligation would result in ACC having excessive power and control over SMCISD residents in connection with the ACC tax. No attorney, who wants to keep his law license, would advise a client to enter into such a one-sided, no-recourse legal obligation.

Priorities: SMCISD’s priorities are not ACC’s priorities, and vice versa. A key priority of SMCISD is to reduce the drop-out rate and produce more and better-qualified graduates to compete in four-year institutions. Our public schools do not have the responsibility of arranging for their graduates’ higher education.

ACC’s priorities, as published in their 2002-2005 Master Plan, include increasing the ACC tax rate, obtaining approval of additional general obligation bonds, and developing strategies that encourage out-of-district ISDs to pursue annexation, in order to increase its tax base.

ACC’s annexation of SMCISD as part of its taxing authority, consistent with its priority to increase its tax base, would result in the extraction of $3 million dollars (or more) per year from the potential SMCISD tax pool, and is clearly detrimental to and in conflict with SMCISD priorities for funding for teacher and staff salaries and expanded programs and facilities, consistent with SMCISD’s key priority to reduce the drop-out rate and produce more and better-qualified graduates.

If SMCISD residents are called upon to make additional contributions for education, either through taxes or otherwise, the beneficiaries of such contributions should be the SMCISD schools and SMCISD children, and not ACC. SMCISD residents are presently contributing, and should continue to contribute, to the San Marcos Education Foundation, which was created to provide assistance to and to generate financial support for the SMCISD.

In summary, the opponents of the ACC petition are not opposing ACC expanding its services to San Marcos and Texas State students, which ACC is legally capable of doing without bringing SMCISD into its taxing district. However, based on the combined negative effects of (1) annually extracting $3 million dollars or more from the SMCISD economy to ACC in Austin, (2) the increased cost of living for all SMCISD residents (including modest income residents who are already economically stressed) and the increased cost of doing business for all SMCISD businesses, (3) the resulting, one-sided, no-recourse, legal obligation of SMCISD residents under the control of ACC’s taxing district, and (4) the subordination of SMCISD priorities to ACC priorities, it is clear to the opponents that the proposed ACC annexation is not in the best interest of SMCISD residents and cannot be justified by the minimal economic benefit of reduced tuition for resident in-district students, without regard to their financial need, and/or any  speculative and unproven benefit to economic development for the community.

Andrew Gary
San Marcos

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0 thoughts on “Letter to the editor: ACC petition is about control

  1. Mr. Gary, as most know, is a BISM who carries the name of one of the great families in education here, and a lawyer–a very good one. We have known each other for many years, casually, but he is not and has never been MY lawyer (yet, at least). His reasoning and the case he makes are elegant and sound (He “speaks with straight tongue”–a habit of long standing, I assume.) I agree with him right along. (See my comment to a feature article on the same subject in Newstreamz.)

    Another angle of the issue involves TxState, which is a huge supporter of the proposal, likely in part to trim off the less apt students from the first two years, thereby accommodating yet more growth without all the cost–for example, like UT-A, which has drastically cut its offerings of basic courses for those who may need remediation, need to make up deficiencies, or who need to raise their GPA’s to reach full eligibility in light of ever-increasing standards. Fewer facilities to build, less housing to account for, smaller classes, etc., while the prospective students are seeking to win their wings elsewhere first. Let a “lower-tier” school take on the “lower tier” students, in plain English.

    A stated goal is to admit smaller freshman classes, making up the numbers via transfers from other schools–how convenient to have them already nearby preparing for their debuts, which saves faculty positions teaching entry-level courses and nursemaiding those who start off a little behind. GROWTH is the name of the game, but preferably at the upper-level and Graduate School, which earn more state funding and relate better to the academic areas being pushed in order to reach “first-tier” status, by academic measures.

    The institution is quite proud to have among the highest entry requirements in the State, “right up there with the Big Boys, UT, Tech, and A&M.” This can aggravate the problem long heard from locals, something like, “Why can local students not get in and succeed at the school in our backyard? That has never been addressed directly, and many townspeople who attended SWT or TxState, even whole families, are puzzled and disappointed. Bingo!! And it both saves money and opens eligibility for all the goodies available to Ph.D and research-oriented universities without our having to do much of the work. Bingo!

    Student already enrolled, but can’t get a lower-level class? Student need remedial work? Student need to drop out of the mainstream to raise the old GPA? Student able to live at home? Presto! And without cost, facilities or personnel! State money is meager and diminishing as the Lege weenies out on their obligation and slowly makes higher ed. provide more of its own funding. So, too, with the quick rises in cost, including tuition and fee escalation.

    Again, Mr. Gary is right on point. It’s about tapping local residents to cover upfront costs, bonding requirements, etc. for both institutions–what they call in the trade “another, separate ‘pot of money’.” The proposal so far has never even claimed to address our disastrous dropout problem between 9th and 12th grade, or the number who later end up with GED’s or go into the military or whatever, without completing SMHS. What these young people need is not
    a trade education, if they aspire to higher ed, nor a certificate of some kind, but a stronger curriculum, more motivation and mentoring, and coursework that is not merely “accepted,” but applies toward a degree.

    There is real progress in that approach, and if we are paying for it anyway, maybe we should keep financial and administrative control in the hands of local people we both know and elect, who have no other priorities. Not only would that more reliably lead to big improvements, but at a much lower price than subsidizing SOME students and building buildings, etc., which might predictably be in Austin or Round Rock.

    Open-ended taxing/bonding ability and deregulated tuition are powerful tools, but more often used to build the schools than human assets. At least those who don’t fit the preferred profile–it ain’t all about opportunity for them, despite the PR Campaign.

    A simple question…are there only 750 enrolees now in the SM/ACC program because they don’t have a building? Are eligible hordes hoping to enroll there as soon as the vote is taken? If not, why not?

    Another puzzle, at least for me: Who will be the SM faculty for ACC? Could you guess? I’ll shut up.

  2. Andrew and Billy deliver a 1-2 knockout punch. The organizers of the ACC petition drive said they wanted to get it on the ballot so our community will engage real dialog on the subject of education. So far, the articles and comments here at San Marcos Local News are the most substantial dialog I have seen to date. I’m all for providing all kinds of education opportunities, but unless I see compelling rationale from the folks in favor of the ACC taxation (annexation), right now I’d be hard pressed to vote yes.

  3. I’d like to see the city take note of the reasons behind the support for ACC and channel that into some creative ideas around fixing our schools. Perhaps the city can forge a stronger relationship with the university, or offer greater support for some mentoring/tutoring programs, or do more with continuing education, for the parents of these students, or provide better guidance to the parents, on how to get their kids into and through college.

    Obviously, there is an underlying sentiment on both sides, that our children (and in turn, our community as a whole) are being short-changed. The school district has made some improvements, but there is much work to be done. What can the city do, to support those efforts? The money that would go to ACC, could fund a *lot* of programs.

  4. Thank you all for enlightening me as to the behind-the-scenes factors of ACC and Texas State benefits of adding an ACC campus to the area. As a teacher SMHS high school, I submit to you that may students attending ACC from our local schools are driving to Austin for classes and are not counted in your 729. As a homeowner within the SMCISD taxing district, I also prefer to keep my taxes lower. As a parent of daughters who take ACC dual enrollment and then attended Texas State, I appreciate the agreements and the opportunities available for our students.

    Whether ACC leases or builds, I would like to see a more permanent campus here in our community to serve our community. After reading the letters, I am not certain I want to actually vote YES for a newly built campus, yet I am still more than certain that I want the opportunity to discuss, debate, and exercise my vote.

    Why are we so concerned with putting the ACC initiative to a vote? Let’s put ACC on the ballot and trust our democratic process.

  5. Billy, I caught the agreement errors after hitting submit. Maybe I need to take a remedial course in electronic editing!

  6. I was all for the San Marcos campus until Kyle stepped up to bat and are ready to build there. That’s convenient for our students. The tuition is still affordable , even with out-of -district status. Our school district is in a bind due to non-growth of the taxing population. TSU is exempt from property tax. You can only squeeze the middle class property owner so many times before they run dry….

  7. ACC needs to improve existing facilities and delivery of instruction to the current ACC student body. In 2004, teaching and instruction represented 58% of ACC’s operating expenses. In 2006, teaching was 54% of operating expenses. In 2008, teaching was 48% of the ACC system’s operating expenses. ACC is increasingly using property tax dollars to pay for administration, not instruction of students.

  8. This is a little off topic but some what germane and I have no other place to ask this question. I am sure the answer is, as Billy puts it, that it all boils down to money. I would like to take a class or two at TSU. I am a graduate of SWT and almost got my Masters before I got too lazy many years ago. I really don’t want to take Introduction to American History or Beginning Psychology at ACC. I am sure those are fine courses for 18 year olds but I would prefer something a little more stimulating.

    A few of us old f**ts tried to enroll in a class at TSU. Now what we learned may or may not be correct because getting a straight answer out of TSU is a bureaucratic nightmare. We were told that if we wanted to take a class, there was no provisions for auditing a class or being a casual student. We would need to be admitted to the University and even if we only took one 3 hour class, we would need to pay all the fees that a regular full time student is charged. That would be several thousand dollars a semester. Not exactly user friendly. Another University source told us that since we already have degree’s, we would have to be admitted to graduate school and could only take graduate school level courses. Who knows? You can ask two people at TSU a question and get at least five answers.

    Many finer Universities are doing just the opposite of TSU. That is, they are encouraging older folks and especially alumni to return and mix with their students. These schools are even building condo’s next to campus to encourage new “older than average” students to participate in the school. These schools, of course, have a some what hidden agenda. A happy involved alumni contribute money. I am not trying to get something for nothing out of this but it does seem like the University could offer some breaks on paper work and fees for the people who have been long suffering in paying taxes to keep the place open. The University will let me join the activity center gym (for a fee) but they will not let me join a class.

    Any of you have any suggestions as to what the true story might be and/or how we might encourage the University to let us take a few classes?

    Charles Sims

  9. A 3-hour undergrad course costs about $1050 ($850 in the summer), including all fees. It is about $100 more for graduate courses.

  10. There appear to be some continuing education (non-credit) courses as well. txstate.edu/continuinged/catalog.html

  11. This Thursday morning the Chamber is hosting a “State of Education in San Marcos” presentation at the monthly “Eggs & Issues Breakfast” meeting. It should be an informative session to hear about SMCISD plans to further improve performance, graduation, and beyond for our students (and future workforce). That flows right into the discussion on whether we would get enough ROI to sign up for ACC taxation. Then, at the June 3rd “Eggs & Issues” meeting, Dr. Steve Kinslow (President, ACC) is scheduled to provide an ACC update.

  12. Thanks Ted but the continuing ed program seems to consist of a Motorcycle course and an Acting course. My motorcycle days are long over and I already have half a dozen Academy Awards so the acting class just doesn’t cut it.

    Do you know if I would have to be admitted or can I just fork over 1000 dollars and take the class. That is a lot of money for 3 hours but it might be worth it to take an 8:00 AM class so I could sleep through it. Do you remember how good it felt to sleep through a morning class?

  13. I believe you need to be enrolled in a degree program, to take the other courses. There may be exceptions. Speaking to the professor for the class that interests you, may be a better way to get information. After all, if s/he gives you permission to sit in on the class, who is going to say anything?

  14. Although I am no longer in favor of ACC taxing us each year, I am still a big fan of ACC in general. Any school that can choose “River Bats” as their mascot (it was announced today) has a sense of humor. Go River Bats!

  15. I think ACC has it’s place in the community but I DON’T think the taxpayers should fund it!!! Are the schools so bad that they can’t position students for a great public school like Texas State University.? Then SHAME on THEM! Let’s put the money into our lower education. I’ll take a hit on taxes for better public schools k-12. (and that will in turn help our property value) But if these current kids only have ACC available to them, they can fund it themselves. If we don’t fix it in the lower grades, then it’ll never get fixed.

  16. Ted, I am sure you did not mean to state, “After all, if s/he gives you permission to sit in on the class, who is going to say anything?” Everyone that attends a class should pay a fee near the full cost of taking the class if only to audit it like Texas State does. To sit in and not pay is called theft and those folks (not you of course) should be charged with a civil crime.

  17. I meant to say it. The professor would know whether s/he is allowed to let people who are not pusuing a degree, sit in on the class, what/how/if they need to pay, etc. The professor, in my opinion, is the best place to go, to find out if and how one could get into the class.

  18. It will be interesting to see if any of the candidates in the Mayor and City Council (November 2010) races foster true community dialog on this issue (rather than quietly standing to the side and saying it is “simply up to the people to decide”). That may help us separate the wheat from the chaff regarding which candidates are really going to push open the doors of government for more transparency and fiscal responsibility.

    How many more ACC advertisements will we see in our community between now and November? Will one or more of our city leaders (or candidates) help the taxpayers understand all aspects to this ballot question? Will our current city leaders ensure the ballot is clearly worded so that voters understand that are voting FOR or AGAINST more taxes at this point in time?

    I bet most of the candidates would rather not have to talk about this subject during their campaigns, because they don’t want to upset the current power infrastructure in town. But, I know many citizens have finally “had it” with their voice not being heard. I hope we have a number of passionate candidates step forward this year. It is going to be an interesting election cycle!

  19. I read elsewhere this morning that ACC is increasing 3.8% their annual budget. It does not provide any across-the-board raises for ACC employees, but “by dropping property tax exemptions on designated historic homes and commercial buildings, the college will generate about $250,000 to give full-time permanent employees $100 to $200 one-time payments.” Do we (SMCISD taxpayers) really want to send more taxpayer money off to Austin for them to decide where and how they want to spend it?

  20. One thing’s for sure. The media loves all the ACC advertisements. It seems like their ads are in front of us at least several times a week now. I guess they’re putting on a full court press to ensure they win on the ballot in November. Somebody’s got to pay for their ever-increasing appetite for more taxpayer money each year.

  21. Well, despite the paucity of real information and the glut of unsifted PR, we are having something of a mini-“public discussion” right here in plain view. It is thanks to diligent citizens like Mr. Harvey that we know at least some of the OTHER side of this, now-become-typical “light the bomb and run like hell” proposed change. Surely, those who know absolutely nothing about ACC or other options in higher education can be convinced by the “I am ACC” long-running series of horse manure and moonbeams being aired at a frantic pace. Shudder to think what it will be like as we draw nigh to election time–who, in these times, would ignore the prospective personal tuition savings that accompany the new regionwide tax?

    Will we hear of the additional costs for books, equipment, and fees such as our own “Building Use Fee,” Medical fee, “”sports fee,””Rec Center Fee” and others, even though the classroom may well be on a base or a ship deployed into less-than-ideal learning environments? Oh, wait. Those are the OTHER schools, no?

    Steve, the media surely MUST love the ads, since they seem to be paid for and professionally staged–pumps a bit of needed cash into the Austin media market. Not a small sum, if one has looked at the cost of such a minute of air time on prime-time TV or large spreads in print.

    Charles, it seems the old system of making audits a special, low-cost option for those wishing to get refreshers, etc. available to geezers like us could not last. Think of all the diversion we would cause, with our questions, the havoc we would wreak in blowing curves for a grad, the parking we might eat up on the new “green and lovely” “Blade-Runner campus. Simply, we are a bother.

    When I returned here from LSU and as I taught in the ’70’s and later, the ’80’s, I tried to audit one course at least each semester, to gain perspective and pick up new and interesting ideas–even convinced I could improve my teaching by incorporating other points of view from other disciplines I’d never sampled. Usually, I did the work, but for no transcripted (degree-satisfying) credit. I recall I did Industrial Psychology, Public Administration, several Urban Planning courses, Advanced Management, etc. and enjoyed and used them all.

    In addition, I wormed my knowledge base and lecture skills into Journalism, Political Science, Computing Related to Health Science and Health Administration, Family and Consumer Science (Consumer Economics)–a range of courses in which i could go in and compare my own sense of things with the publications, instructors and students in those fields. Hardly ever paid, because my affable colleagues thought that just POSSIBLY my point of view, if any, might work to challenge and inform the “real students.” Everybody seemed to agree that for everybody the approach showed benefits. And I met and sat with some very bright young people. Had to give it up after a while as my time was more consumed by my own duties, one of which was to try and breathe air into often suffocating correspondence courses, which were few and sparsely enrolled.

    “Extension” courses ran from packaged programs on motorcycle safety to hobbies and fads (Richard Simmons, or how to do various activities like embroidery, tole-painting, etc.) As we began to seek higher ground, we created mini-semesters outside this country, more or less in the guise of “Gidget goes to Mexico for saturation Spanish,” or an “introduction to the Bodleian Library,” or a scientific/geographical/cultural study of Chichen-Itsa.” The patients were more or less in coma when I stopped–couldn’t even get The Rising Star to countenance s full-blown student interchange with a prominent University in Corsica, even though both Presidents loved the idea and “really wanted to continue” the swap beyond the first year. (We received about eight exchange students, who seem to have been abandoned after their first semester.) Extension is healthier now, by virtue that faculty members still want to travel, to do their own work out-of-country and, disguised as tour guides, make a little spare $$$. These courses are an excellent form of education, but they cost a bundle outside the tuition and books requirement. Also hard to schedule foriegn studies against our own start-finish dates,

    During part of this time, I was also Director of Extension and Correspondence, and encouraged interested faculty to teach seminars at a pittance and grade the absent students’ work, first during sabbattical or holiday, then later for the longer haul. Some of these provide first-rate academic education, far from the wilds of North LBJ and Sagewood.

    Amazingly, when I offered to get SWT involved in the burgeoning world of Elderhostel, in which older persons come, say, to study science in short courses with all the River guys–biologists, water-quality people, geographers, geologists–or history, literature, cultural phenomena, management theory, etc. The silence was thundering, despite evidence of considerable demand, especially among affluent, well-educated “Snowbirds” and others.

    A whiz-bang professor might yet agree for one to occupy a free seat, and even participate in the discourse, if not each day, then now and again, for special topics. Experienced adults give leavening and practical knowledge to a room full of novices, and the chemistry is usually beautiful–a real assist for the responsible prof. And they’ll give you the dimensions of their tolerance for hogging or whatever. They are there because teaching is what they do.

    The best and most subversive thing may be to raise the cry, “Whatever happened to the Chautauqua? The occasional lecture series in the open for which that hill is named, and from whence sprung the idea of a college to begin with. It IS traditional and popular all over the US. Great tourism ploy, since these folks have time and money and a desire for learning’s sake. And who knows? They might tithe to help TXSTATE get to a post-season bowl game before UTSA, which has just begun a huge push, with the money and power of San Antonio behind them.
    I have good odds from SA that shortly our efforts will place us between UT#1 to the north, UT#2 to the south. What do you do when a Coyote steps on the sole egg in your basket, when they have the populace, the facilities, and the billionnaires in place, with your time-line shrinking like a lit fuse?

    Today I read through my beat-up copy of “Alice in Wonderland.” That righted my sense of what is going on in SM. All the characters of the active community are there. I began to feel right at home. For today.

    Glad all of the usual NS folks are alert and talkin’.

    A disclosure: if I can be convinced the community benefits outweigh the costs of becoming an Austin annex, I’ll vote yes on ACC. So far, not a sign in sight. Don’t hold your breath–unless some kindly legislator can be convinced to wiggle the rules a little here, jiggle them a bit there at the Lege, and pull off another “name-change” magic trick.

  22. The ballot language on ACC is vague and does not clarify that the person voting “For” means they are voting for a permanent new tax increase that will have to be taxpayer paid every year on top of all the other taxes. Here is what it will look like on the ballot:

    Special Election
    Austin Community College District
    Proposition 1 Ballot Language
    Annexation of the following territory for junior college purposes: that portion of the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District (San Marcos CISD) not presently included in the boundaries of Austin Community College District (ACC).

    () For () Against

  23. To the extent we are trying to improve the future for our San Marcos children, joining the ACC tax district provides a poor return on investment. For example, of the over 700 students taking classes in Fall of 2009 here in San Marcos, only 49 were San Marcos residents. Why do we need to send to Austin over $3 million dollars of our local taxpayer money each year for 49 students?

    We need to increase the (High School) graduation rate of SMCISD students, and improve the readiness of those students to enter college (or directly enter the workforce). If we’re going to spend more local tax money on education, it should directly go to and benefit our local students in SMCISD. Spending more time, attention, and resources on grades K-4 will improve our High School graduation rate and the quality and preparedness of our children to work and live a productive life.

    ACC has been spending more on administration and less on delivery of instruction. In 2004, teaching and instruction represented 58% of ACC’s operating expenses. In 2006, teaching was 54% of operating expenses. In 2008, teaching was 48% of the ACC system’s operating expenses.

    This is too expensive for us right now. Many families have been and continue to face economic challenges. Looking at our total annual tax picture, we’re probably going to have to pay more tax money to the City of San Marcos, since we have more than doubled our long-term debt and obligations during the past 5 years.

    Proponents have said there is a 5.1 ROI (Return On Investment) for community college investment. They say that for every $1.00 in tax money paid, there is a $5.10 economic benefit to the community. But, when pressed for details, there has been no response to date. At various State of Texas online sites, I’ve seen economic studies on the benefits of community colleges, but none portray such a glowing ROI. Proponents, how will this directly benefit the people paying for it?

    For our local SMCISD graduates, let’s remember that Texas State University developed the “Bobcat Promise.” From their website, it states, “This program guarantees free tuition and mandatory fees for 15 credit hours per semester to new entering freshmen with a family adjusted gross income that does not exceed a specified level.”

    The program information additionally states, “Students may qualify for the program for up to eight continuous long semesters (fall and spring). This program will provide up to the cost of 15 credit hours of tuition and fees each fall and spring semester (an award in excess of $7,800 per academic year).”

    The more we find out, the more it sounds like a yearly transfer of money from normal citizens over to special interests (such as students already attending who want a tuition decrease, or businesses who want more training options, and Texas State who benefits from ACC bringing prospective students “up to speed” first).

    San Marcos ACCess leadership saying, “This effort will bring lower tuition rates and a full-service, comprehensive campus to San Marcos,” and, “the return on investment is high.” The goals of the ACC annexation (tax) drive do not relate to our SMCISD students improving their academic performance and graduation rate. The Steering Committee campaign letter states these goals:

    () Workforce training, economic development
    () Customized training
    () Entry-level job training
    () Our own campus
    () Lower tuition
    () Transferability

    Based on their stated goals, one can see why Texas State, and certain businesses, and students already going to (or planning to attend) ACC, would love for us little individual taxpayers to “roll over” and pay the proposed ACC tax bill each year – they get benefits and they don’t have to pay for them.

    Being in the ACC taxation district would be a bad contract for San Marcos. It is perpetual, there is no recourse, and we have no control. It would be like legal bondage, taxation without representation.

    On July 6th, it was reported that ACC is increasing 3.8% their annual budget. It does not provide any across-the-board raises for ACC employees, but “by dropping property tax exemptions on designated historic homes and commercial buildings, the college will generate about $250,000 to give full-time permanent employees $100 to $200 one-time payments.” Do we (SMCISD taxpayers) really want to send more taxpayer money off to Austin for them to decide where and how they want to spend it?

    The ballot language should have been clear this would be a new tax we would be paying to ACC every year. We would be sending millions of new tax dollars to ACC each year, and they would decide how they want to spend it.

    Unfortunately, the ballot language on ACC will be vague and does not clarify that the person voting “For” means they are voting for a permanent new tax increase that will have to be taxpayer paid every year on top of all the other taxes. Here is what it will look like on the ballot:

    Special Election
    Austin Community College District
    Proposition 1 Ballot Language
    Annexation of the following territory for junior college purposes: that portion of the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District (San Marcos CISD) not presently included in the boundaries of Austin Community College District (ACC).

    () For () Against

    As further evidence of their “we’ll tell you what we want to tell you when we are good and ready” approach, ACC initially refused to release purchase prices for their future campuses. This includes, “87 acres in Bastrop, 100 acres in Leander, 98 acres in Elgin and 18.5 acres at Highland Mall.” ACC was also pursuing property in the Kyle-Buda area, and they said that, “disclosure of the price for one campus could prompt sellers of land for other campuses to demand the same price.” It’s quite a stretch to say that public information on the land they’ve recently bought (in totally different markets) would compromise their negotiating position in the Kyle-Buda area. This is another example of taxpayer money being spent behind closed doors, with the leaders wanting to keep the information away from the public’s eyes.

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