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

April 12th, 2010
San Marcos ACCess given until May 3 for petitions

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San Marcos ACCess officials formally declared its intention to seek annexation into the Austin Community College District last week.

STAFF REPORT

Supporters of annexing San Marcos CISD into the Austin Community College (ACC) District have been given an extended deadline for turning in petition signatures for the purpose of putting the issue on the November ballot.

ACC now is giving San Marcos ACCess until May 3 to submit the petition signatures. The original deadline was April 9, which was last Friday.

Officials at ACC and San Marcos ACCess said that the late start to the San Marcos petition drive, combined with multiple ACC annexation efforts in Central Texas, account for the deadline shift.

ACC Media Relations Coordinator Alexis Patterson said the original April 9 deadline was an ACC internal deadline, which was not legally binding. San Marcos ACCess co-chair Kim Porterfield said the late start to the local effort, which didn’t begin until Feb. 24, factored into the extended deadline.

“We worked it out with them,” Porterfield said.

San Marcos ACCess could have begun collecting signatures as early as Nov. 16. However, San Marcos ACCess delayed the drive to work on addressing perception issues that came up in 2006, when the San Marcos CISD effort to join ACC was thwarted by the revelation of signature fraud by the firm hired to collect signatures. San Marcos ACCess is using no outside sources to collect signatures on the present drive.

San Marcos CISD is one of five in Central Texas undertaking efforts to join the ACC district. The others are Hays CISD, Bastrop ISD, Elgin ISD and McDade ISD.

“We had a suggested timeline for submitting signatures, and at one time April 9 had been shown as the date,” said ACC Media Relations Coordinator Alexis Patterson about the San Marcos effort. ” … What happened in this case was that with five ISDs undertaking annexation efforts, the (ACC) governmental and community relations staff could not turn around review of that many petitions all at once, so we revised our timeline just to allow for better work distribution among the staff.”

San Marcos ACCess officials appeared before the ACC trustees on April 5 to formally declare its intention to seek annexation. Porterfield said the San Marcos effort is still collecting signatures and will need about 1,800 of them to go on the ballot.

Following the May 3 deadline, said Patterson, it is possible the ACC trustees will take further action on the San Marcos effort at their May 17 meeting. At that point, the signatures could be certified, which would put ACC on San Marcos CISD ballots in November.

The ACC trustees certified Bastrop ISD petitions on April 5, meaning annexation will go before Bastrop-area voters in November. ACC verified 1,652 Bastrop signatures, which, according to ACC, is “significantly above what is required by the education code.”

Should voters decide to become part of the ACC district, homeowners would pay a property tax currently set at 9.46 cents per $100 valuation,, with a standard $5,000 homestead exemption plus a $105,000 exemption for homeowners older than 65 and persons with disabilities. In exchange, students within the district would pay the in-district tuition rate of $39 per credit hour, rather than the out-of-district rate, which is $137 per hour.

ACC also has proposed to build a campus that could expand to eight buildings on the east side of San Marcos, near San Marcos High School.

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0 thoughts on “San Marcos ACCess given until May 3 for petitions

  1. Is that May 3rd deadline also ACC-set, or is it the cutoff date to get on the ballot? I would hope that after last time a full list of the signatories would be available with ample time for review.

  2. If they cannot get the signatures in the amount of time allotted, they just extend the time. Anybody else surprised?

  3. For a $150,000 house (after exemptions), this equates to a $141.90/year tax increase. For a $100,000 home, it’s $94.60/year.

    Let’s let the burden of paying for college educations remain on those who are getting the education, not spread it out over our entire population.

    If anyone comes to your door with an ACC petition, send them packing…..

  4. I understand that nobody wants to pay higher property taxes especially in this economy, and I also get that some people have the perception that joining the ACC district is a local control giveaway, neither of these arguments indicate that many San Marcos residents do not need affordable access to community college courses and occupation specific training. If San Marcos is to benefit from the economic recovery when it comes, it will need a skilled workforce to drive local economic development and contribute to the tax base. Joining the ACC district is a sound investment in the local workforce, and it is a bargain. To vote against joining the district is “penny wise and pound foolish”. As other communities in Central Texas join the ACC district, San Marcos will be at a competitive disadvantage in the regional economic development arena.

  5. We need our local tax dollars to help our local youth, and that is one of the areas where the ACC proposal seems to fall flat on its face. I have yet to hear exactly how becoming part of the permanent ACC tax base will increase the percentage of students who actually graduate from SMCISD (right now, the overall graduation rate is only 73.8%).

  6. I agree with Mr. Harvey that we do need to raise expectations within our local school district. Sadly, after spending nearly 150 million dollars on new “21st Century Schools” to make us competitive with other school districts, i’d rather invest money in an institution with proven results rather then a school district that continuously promises to “raise standards.”

    While San Marcos High School’s graduation rate is only at 73.8% – behind closed doors SMCISD sends their under performing students to the”alternative high school” which sadly is not even close to being equal in academic rigor to that of the high school.

    If ACC Annexation is on the November ballot, I will only vote “yes” for annexation if Dr. Shafer, the SMCISD board, and ACC can formulate some type of master plan to address the educational issues specifically in San Marcos

  7. Apart for the unique nuances of ACC in San Marcos, a more global question is whether higher education (i.e. past high school) should be funded more directly by the taxpayer. Public funding of K-12 is the law (like it or not) and local student attendance is required (mostly) for grades K-12. Community College is a bit different in that attendance is purely optional and, with a tax district, tuition is 72% publicly funded. Like health care, this seems like a worthy topic for citizens to consider and debate. Should the debate happen before the issue is on a ballot (as in now) or should it happen once the ballot item is established? Either way, I look forward to the dialogue…

  8. I hope we can engage true community dialog on this subject (versus campaign rhetoric). Having said that, even if the signature count falls short and it does not appear on the ballot, just the fact of the petition drive itself has stirred up plenty of conversation, and hopefully raised further awareness of the educational needs of our youth.

    I understand being part of the ACC tax base is good for Texas State, and good for certain businesses (some located here, many located elsewhere), but I am concerned the ROI is not acceptable to the taxpayers who would actually be paying the additional tax money each year, and I believe most of us would prefer to first address the more pressing needs of our students attending SMCISD.

    Or, is it really as simple as portrayed, that having more ACC presence will inspire current students to do better in school and more to graduate? And if that is the case, there are plenty of examples of other community colleges in Texas who have campus presence in communities that are not part of their ongoing tax base.

    I remember San Marcos ACCess leadership saying, “This effort will bring lower tuition rates and a full-service, comprehensive campus to San Marcos.” “The return on investment is high.” But, what exactly are the main goals of paying these new taxes to ACC, how will we ensure those goals are accomplished, and are the goals worthy of the taxpayer investment?

  9. Mike hit the nail on the head. There is nothing that can be promised by ACC that will make me believe that it is acceptable for ME to fund SOMEONE ELSE’S *higher education* costs.

    I have no problem paying taxes to the school district. If higher school district taxes are required to improve the quality of our children’s secondary education, then I’m for it.

    But I am NOT for public funding of college costs. If kids can’t afford the $137/hour ACC “out of district” tuition, then let them do what I and so many others before them did….try to qualify for Pell Grants and if that doesn’t work or isn’t enough, let them take out student loans.

    There is no more important time to teach our young adults that they MUST take a stake in their own success than when they get out of high school and enter the “real world”.

  10. You’re right Dano, Mike did hit the nail on the head, but I think ACC doesn’t have to promise anything. They are doing it now. Unlike school districts that promise a worthless diploma, ACC has provided Central Texas thousands of educated workers who make a decent living doing something other than flipping burgers. I say it is worth a taxpayer subsidy. In fact, if the choice were on the ballot, I would vote yes to a 100% publicly funded community college. This city will never be more than a collection of fast food restaurants along the highway if we continue as we have been.
    Look at every great city in our country and around the world and I will show you a publicly funded higher education system supplying it with skilled labor, art and culture, community services labor, business management, and generally a higher calibur of citizen. I think some of the citizens of San Marcos would prefer to live in the stone age.
    YES ACC!

  11. I’ll bite, Jason…..what earth shaking accomplishments will our SMCISD grads be able to accomplish with an associates degree from ACC that will make it worth spending my tax dollars to give it to them?

    Don’t kid yourself….sure, a community college education is (marginally) better than a high school education, but it’s not going to provide San Marcos – or the world – with the next generation of movers and shakers.

    Besides, the point you are totally ignoring is that our students ALREADY HAVE ACCESS TO ACC COURSES. It’s not like we live in a remote backwoods area with no access to higher education. It’s twenty miles down the road, and if the student can’t make the drive, there are classes right here at Miller too.

    If you truly want to devalue a college education for the next generation of Americans, go ahead and make it as easy as possible for them to go. If they aren’t required to make an effort – or even a sacrifice – they will place no value on it. The minute our youth start thinking of college as a ‘right’ and not a ‘privilige’, a college degree will no longer be worth the paper it’s printed on.

  12. I thought we had a publicly funded university in town — a really big one. And despite the thousands of graduates it produces every year, Mr. Harper is still displeased with the mix of businesses in town. What will ACC achieve that Texas State cannot?

    Taxpayers subsidize the education of those who cannot afford to attend college in the forms of grants, scholarships and low interest loans. Those who stand to benefit from the newest local entitlement are those who can afford to pay for their own college, because they are the only students not receiving help right now. We should not pay for community college courses for students who can afford to pay themselves and do it at the expense of the real needs of the community, such as primary and secondary education, neglect, housing and hunger. Plus, by giving an entitlement to even more education, we distort the costs and benefits to the student. Right now, many students have determined the full cost of an ACC class ($137/hr) is not worth the investment, but they will no longer be in position to make a rational decision once they do not factor in the full cost (once someone else is paying it). Most classes ACC offers are probably not worth the investment to most potential students as evidenced by their paltry enrollment, and there is no need for the community to encourage those students to waste their time and our money.

    Being in the ACC district is a bad idea for all the reasons Andrew Gary has eloquently put forth, but I refuse to accept the baseline assumption that more ACC is a public good to all.

  13. If the kids don’t graduate high school and if most of the graduates are not thinking that college is the next step, then you can put college campuses in every corner of town and offer the courses for free, and it won’t make a difference.

    I’d like to see the community college live up to its name and present a plan to become part of the community, including initiatives to get more kids through high school and into college, whether it be at ACC, Texas State or somewhere else altogether. I appreciate the thought of making higher education more accessible, but first we need to get more students trying to access it. Simply increasing supply does not magically create demand.

  14. 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 (observed on Facebook this evening) includes these goals:

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

    Based on their stated goals, I continue to 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 acquiesce and pay the proposed ACC tax bill each year – they get benefits and they don’t have to pay for them.

    Our community leaders are spending us into the poorhouse. The total long-term liabilities (debt, certificates of obligation, and such) for the City of San Marcos has skyrocketed since 2005. We’ve gone from around $122 million (’05) to almost $300 million (present). That’s a lot of money for a little town like San Marcos.

    Now is NOT the time to add to the citizen’s tax burden. We’re already going to have to “pay the piper” in years to come, just to get our massive long-term liabilities under control. We shouldn’t ship this big new pile of money to ACC each year, because we’re going to plenty need it right here in San Marcos.

    Having said that, I know proponents of the ACC tax drive say studies have been done which state for every one dollar invested in community colleges, the recipient community will gain over five dollars in return. I’ve looked at several community college impact studies at various State of Texas websites, and I have yet to find supporting documentation of such dramatic numbers.

    If this golden report is out there, somebody please tell me where it is, because if the 5-to-1 return on investment is real, and if it can make sense for the citizens (taxpayers) who would be footing the bill each year, then the economics of the proposition just might outweigh all the other valid concerns.

    But until then, the more I hear and read about this, the more it sounds like a transfer of money from normal citizens over to special interests (such as students 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).

  15. All great comments! So I am wondering how much tax will the voter tolerate?

    I phrase the question that way because only actual “voters” make the decision (or at least that’s the idea) and “tolerate” to suggest that there is a limit to how much someone is willing to be taxed. We have the usual federal tax, sales tax, county tax, city tax, school tax, special road tax, with maybe an ACC tax and maybe a hospital district tax on the horizon. So I wonder if voters consider each layer of taxes separately or do they lump them all together when pondering affordability. For example, does the voter say “I am willing to pay for ACC but I am not willing to pay more to the City” – in this case each entity stands a chance. Or does the voter simply say “I am not willing to pay any more taxes regardless of the purpose” – in which case the late comers to the taxing game are out of luck. Are entities competing with each other for tax dollars?

    Speaking for myself – I often like the idea of new services but always cringe when I write the tax check. The frustrating part is that I believe the amount of my taxes that are wasted by the city, county and schools combined could easily fund the ACC and the hospital tax. Lots of waste in those bureaucracies.

  16. What a nice, cheery photo.

    Go ahead Mayor Narvaiz, run up my tax bill just a little bit more.

    I’m becoming numb to it.

  17. Good angle Mike. I for one think ACC hurts the chances of later implementing a tax for something we need worse or for raising city or county taxes. The 9 cents they want is not an insignifacant amount on your tax bill. It would be interesting to know the amount of the last few city and county tax increases.

  18. I just received the ACCess leter in the mail asking for my signature on the petition. I did not sign it, and I will tell you why. We already have ACC classes offered in this town , and a large state university here. So, I am basically being asked subsidize what I imagine will become the San Marcos version of Blindergarden? At A&M some that could not pass the weed-out classes would just instead take it over at the Blinn JC campus that opened down the road in Bryan. I am not sure what the Blinn JC campus has actually provided the citizens of Bryan, but I know that when many could not or did not want to pass a particularly hard class (or take the chance of lowering their GPA) they would just take it at Blinn instead. Why try really hard and push yourself at Texas State when you can try just hard enough to pass at ACC so the credit transfers? I am afraid that is what will happen here, it will become just the easy way out for students. College is not supposed to be easy.
    Then there is the argument that it will make it more affordable for people here in San Marcos. No one is arguing that higher education is not costly, but at 9.46 cents per $100 valuation the yearly tax will actually cost me the same as my monthly student loans. So, now I get to make 13 payments a year for education instead of 12 , so someone else does not have to take a loan out like I did? No thank you. Out of district cost of $137 for ACC is still cheaper than Texas State, which is $191 for the fall of 2010 according to CatsWeb. If we had no higher educational opportunities in San Marcos, then this would be a different story.

  19. Pingback: QUOTE CORNER - San Marcos Local News

  20. How can anyone in their right mind support the ACC petition? Their last drive produced many invalid signatures, even those of deceased persons. They should have been prosecuted. But, they like all other politicians think they are above the law, and the District Attorney agreed with them because they were not sent to jail. If one puts a pencil to the taxes they will receive versus the savings for students from the San Marcos School, the big winner is ACC, not the taxpayers from SMISD.

  21. The fraud you all speak of was committed by a hired consultant that was not hired or paid by ACC. Stop sreading LIES! Freaking LIES! Try to be honest. ACC did not pay them a dime. You may not agree with the argument that more access to education is a great tool to help people to become more economically viable citizens but please move pass the actions in the past of a less than honest consultant.

    The Return on Investment for a Community College in Texas is 5.1 dollars for every dollar invested. Everyone benefits not just the students. ACC is the largest feeder Community College for Tx State and UT. ACC transfer students do better that students that start their college journey at four year Universities in Texas. I worked 40 + hours a week as a manager in a sit down restaurant, used my GI Bill, Academic scholarships, the Texas Hazelwood Military funding and a few student loans to pay for my SWT degree in four and a half years. The cost has skyrocketed in the last 15 years. ACC would make it more affordable as most folks do not have funds like the G I Bill. I took two classes at ACC back then because large class size was a barrier for me in Calculus. The small class size ACC provided gave me the one on one attention I needed to succeed. I do not remember any silver platter while I was attending ACC.

    BTW, Austin or Kyle will be long walks without a car. Oh, maybe these young folks can earn money for a car by working in a fast food establishment. Oh wait, they do not have parents to help support them so maybe they can get up at 3am and start walking to Austin. Better yet, they can live on the streets in Austin until they figure it out. As far as working 40 hrs a week, are you hiring? Not many businesses are currently hiring in case you have not heard. I served my Country as my Dad did before me and my son currently does in Iraq. I pray for the day that one less person has to enter our Armed Forces and offer their life in the quest for an education at a College or University. More taxes? Sit on your comfy sofa a cry about what you give up.

  22. I wish somebody could tell us where to find this “5.1” Return On Investment analysis. I’ve looked through a number of State of Texas websites and reports on this subject, and do not find it. The SMCISD taxpayers who would be funding this new tax every year need and deserve to understand the supporting facts to this “5.1” Return On Investment statement.

  23. We’re hiring. Job growth is actually pretty strong in the Austin/San Antonio corridor. The problem is, there are no real jobs in San Marcos.

  24. Try the Texas comptroller’s web site. I would not want to give you a hand out. Fund it every year and reap the rewards ever year! No Jobs in San Marcos? Yup, just keep slapping Thermon, Mensor, Widelite, Grande and all the others down about no real jobs in San Marcos and see how many of those jobs remain. Sit on your comfy sofa a continue to cry about what you give up.

  25. You sound like the one crying, honestly.

    I’ll revise my statement, to say there are too few real jobs in San Marcos.

    Want a tissue?

  26. I searched the Texas comptroller’s website, too, and did not find this figure. Not sure why the supporting facts behind this “5.1” Return On Investment need to be such a secret, unless there are no supporting facts in the first place?

    Speaking of the comfy sofa, my wife and I chose to move to San Marcos to start a business. There are plenty of students at Texas State University who need jobs and intern experience. And plenty of new graduates who would like to stay in San Marcos if only they could find a living wages job.

    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).”

  27. I like the Bobcat Promise. The problem was that my education at San Marcos CISD was so bad that I could not pass an enterance exam. I could not use it to get in to SWT but I was able to get remedial classes at ACC. I am not the one crying about taxes. Where is the call for San Marcos CISD to do a better job? Are you all involved in making SMCISD a better organization by serving on a committee etc.? We need your help.

  28. Since we moved here a couple years ago, I’ve mentored, helped with the program that places computers in needy homes, and currently helping develop some educational materials targeted to the fifth grade. I’d do more, but between the startup and now dealing with Stage IV cancer, time is limited.

    I agree, as a community, we need to continue working together (in a variety of ways) to enable our children to believe they can and should attend education beyond High School.

  29. I’m not complaining about taxes. I am just questioning where the money would be best spent. Just because I can afford it, that doesn’t mean it is a good value.

    I have been calling for SMCISD to do a better job, as loud and as long as anyone I know. Unfortunately, I work in San Antonio (where I have some aggressive growth goals to meet) and am in school myself. So, while my challenges are not on par with Steve’s, I don’t have the time that I would like, to dedicate to this.

    I raise the issues of our graduation rates and “college readiness” at election time, at the debates and whenever someone trots out a press release, claiming our schools are exemplary. I throw ideas out there, about what we might be able to do, to improve our schools. I try to shed light where I can and when I have the time to do it right, I will run for a spot on the SMCISD board.

  30. We know that the “problems” with SMCISD has been a major issue for several years now.

    Yet how many people showed up to vote in the school board election a couple of days ago?

    Two or three hundred !!??

    We have the same situation with our corrupt city government.

    Until anyone (everyone) really gives a flip, we’ll be stuck with it, ad infinitum.

  31. Ask me to pony up tax dollars to improve *public schools* for ALL of our students? I’m all for it.
    Ask me to pony up tax dollars to subsidize *college education* for A FEW of our students? Not just no, but heck no.

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