by JENNIFER BIUNDO
Voters in the Hays Consolidated School District approved a proposition to join the Austin Community College taxing district Tuesday night, even as their neighbors to the south in San Marcos ISD soundly rejected a similar measure.
For Hays CISD residents, the annexation will bring an immediate decrease on ACC tuition, but higher bills from the tax assessor next year. Additionally, ACC has pledged to construct a $23 million, 72,000-square-foot campus, slated for FM 1626 near the Plum Creek business district, with a target opening date of August 2013.
As universities across the nation face rising tuition rates and plummeting endowments, community colleges are gaining new prominence as a possible alternative.
Supporters of the annexation posited the move as a quality of life issue, saying the addition of a community college to the region would attract desirable elements to Buda and Kyle and help increase earning power for local residents.
But some opponents were concerned that the annexation would bring disproportionately higher taxes with little long-term benefit. Websites such as noacctax.com pushed the message that “tuition is temporary, taxes are forever.”
Despite their efforts, voters in the Hays Consolidated Independent School District widely supported joining the ACC taxing district, with 58.45 percent of the 11,770 ballots in favor of annexation and 41.55 against. About 12 percent of voters left the ACC proposition blank on their ballot.
Meanwhile, San Marcos voters soundly defeated the measure, with almost 55 percent voting against the annexation.
On their next tax bill, Hays CISD residents will see an additional 9.5 cents per $100 of property valuation.
The owner of a property valued at $150,000 would pay ACC about $137 annually. Meanwhile, property owners who are disabled or over the age of 65 would get a $120,000 exemption and pay about $37 annually on a $150,000 home.
All told, Hays CISD will provide ACC with about $3.3 million in annual tax revenue at the current rates. In return, Hays CISD residents will get a break on tuition rates, paying $58 per credit hour rather than the out-of-district fee of $166.
Hays CISD currently has about 1,000 ACC students, including about 250 high school students taking classes for college credit.
Throughout central Texas, voters in Bastrop and McDade ISDs also defeated the drive to join ACC, while Elgin ISD approved the ballot measure. If all five districts had approved the annexation, ACC would have more than doubled its 800-square-mile service area.