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Lee College seeks bond approval from local voters

HIGHLANDS – Lee College is asking voters to approve a $40 million bond inside the Goose Creek Independent School District, plans were announced at the Highlands Chamber of Commerce luncheon last Thursday.

Dr. Dennis Brown, who became President of Lee College in February 2012, gave the facts about the bond.

He also discussed accomplishments of Lee College including statistics that of 1100 community colleges in the nation, Lee College is number five in the number of Science and Technology degrees awarded. Lee College is number 11 in the nation in the number of Bio-Technology Awarded Annually.

The Lee College tax increase is to expand the simulation lab at the college, research the opening of a Health Clinic on campus, upgrade classrooms, laboratory facilities, create space for new Physical Therapy Program, Occupational Therapy Program and other allied health programs. Also included is an upgrade to Rundell Hall including a first floor “one stop shop for student services,” a second floor university center, testing center, administrative offices, and a business and conference center.

The cost of the bond for tax payers is a tax rate increase of $1.75. The homeowner with an appraised value of $100,000 is to pay $1.17 per month more property taxes. Future expansion of business and industry may take some of that burden away from taxpayers.

Senior Citizens will have no tax increase on the frozen level on the homestead of taxpayers who have applied for and received the age 65 freeze unless they have property values exceeding $93,750.

The Board of Regents reduced the 2012 tax rate by 1¢. The college has not had a bond referendum since 1999.

Election day for the Lee College Bond is May 11 with early voting beginning April 29 and lasting until May 7.

Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Don Coffey gave a presentation of why the bond should be passed. He, his wife and his son graduated from Lee College. The modest bond passed in 1999 was a success and the college has been conservative on how the college has expanded. The McNair Center has been funded from grants and now is an industrial training area. After the bond it will become a medical training center. The focus of Lee College is workplace development and this is critical to development of business locally, with a goal of student success. The current tax rate is based on no growth in the tax base, while the Goose Creek Consolidated ISD tax base depends upon expected expansion in local petrochemical businesses within the district. If Lee College used the expected expansion model for projection, they would have no increase in the rate at all.

“So we can borrow this $40 million at such a low rate that we can get a rate of $1.75 if there is no growth over the next 20 years. Our employees wanted $70 Million to do various things but we are very conservative. I feel certain it will come back in huge rewards.” said Judge Coffey.

Highlands-Lynchburg Chamber President Jim Wadzinsky added that “If we don’t pass this bond this year it is going to cost twice as much next time it is offered.”