A map of the Austin Community College (ACC) district. ACC graphic.
By SEAN BATURA
Trustees for Austin Community College (ACC) unanimously certified a petition circulated by San Marcos ACCess this week, placing San Marcos CISD’s inclusion in the ACC district on a Nov. 2 off-year election ballot that shapes up as the thickest ever in Hays County.
The trustees approved 2,174 signatures, exceeding the total of 2,033 upon which they finally settled after the number shifted about for two months due to uncertainties about the eligibilities of suspense voters within the school district.
The certification advances a long effort by local ACC supporters to put the matter in front of San Marcos voters. A similar effort in 2006 failed after a consultant hired by a local steering committee was found to have committed signature fraud.
“The message we got from the dais was that they met the minimum and then some any way you counted it,” ACC Trustee Jeffrey K. Richard said.
About a week ago, San Marcos ACCess co-Chair Miguel Arredondo said his group had collected about 2,400 signatures. San Marcos ACCess needed signatures from five percent of registered voters living within San Marcos CISD to place the initiative on the November ballot.
ACC trustees also unanimously certified similar petitions for the Elgin and McDade ISDs Monday after previously certified petitions from Bastrop ISD and Hays CISD. But the largest is San Marcos CISD, with its $3 billion tax base.
If voters approve San Marcos CISD annexation to ACC, then the community college district will levy an ad valorem tax of 9.46 cents per $100 of property value and build an ACC campus in San Marcos. In addition, students from within San Marcos ACC could attend the college for the in-district rate of $42 per hour, as opposed to the out-of-district rate of $150.
ACC has capped its maintenance and operations (M&O) tax rate at nine cents and uses 0.46 cents per $100 of taxable valuation to retire facilities bonds. Voter approval is required before a change in ACC’s tax rate can occur.
“Students would get the benefit right away, within (a) six-month period, but the taxes wouldn’t start to be collected for probably more than a year, because it takes a year for the tax assessor to assess the values, and get the tax bills out, and then for people to start paying them,” Richard said. “So, the benefit is much more immediate than the cost. The cost is always at least a year away.”
ACC officials plan to release a Request for Proposals next week for architects to begin planning the first phase of the proposed San Marcos campus. In February, ACC District President Steven B. Kinslow said an ACC campus near San Marcos High School should be open in 2014 if those voters approve annexation.
San Marcos ACCess will begin campaigning for the ballot initiative by participating in ACC-sponsored public forums, running articles in local news publications in support of ACC annexation, and block walking.
Senior citizens and disabled property owners in the proposed annexation zone would receive a $105,000 tax exemption. ACC also offers a $5,000 homestead exemption. According to an ACC fact sheet, the owner of a $120,000 house would pay $108.79 annually. Homeowners with disabilities and senior citizens would pay $9.46 a year, according to the same $120,000 home ownership scenario. Owners of $120,000 in commercial property would pay $113.52 annually.
“The San Marcos campus will have entry-level job training programs and general education courses that will transfer to any Texas public college or university,” said Arredondo.
The San Marcos City Council unanimously approved a resolution in support of annexation to ACC. The establishment of a community college in San Marcos is in accord with the three main goals of a recently-released economic development plan funded by the City of San Marcos and Partners for Progress, a group of regional leaders from the public and private sectors. The three main goals of the Greater San Marcos Plan are workforce excellence, economic diversification and quality of place.
“ACC fits the bill, providing high-quality, affordable workforce education that helps citizens find better jobs, earn higher wages and contribute more to the local tax base, along with customized training such as management skills, technical and leadership training tailored to meet the needs of our local businesses and organizations,” said San Marcos ACCess co-Chair Kim Porterfield.
ACC officials will present a service plan for San Marcos at a public hearing on July 15 at 6 p.m., at a location yet to be announced. The service plan will be developed by ACC with input from San Marcos CISD, Texas State, local industry representatives, Gary Job Corps, and others. The proposed service plan will outline courses, programs, tax information and other items.
The November ballot now shapes up as a very crowded affair. Not only is ACC now up for vote, but at least three of seven positions for the San Marcos City Council will be on the ballot, and that number could grow. The seats held by San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz and Councilmembers Kim Porterfield and Gaylord Bose are up for election.
Also on the ballot locally are races for Hays County judge, the Precinct 2 and Precinct 4 county commissioners, several other Hays County positons, as well as governor of Texas and other statewide positions.Email | Print