EARLY — Ranger College will be a “major contributor” to downtown urban renewal in Brownwood by expanding into the old Bank of America building in downtown Brownwood — if voters allow the college to begin collecting property taxes.
    That was the the message Thursday afternoon of Dr. Orlando Moreno, vice president of the Ranger College campus in Brown County, as Ranger College hosted the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce’s Business After Hours.
     Speaking at the Ranger College campus at the Heartland Mall, Moreno gave an informal presentation on Ranger College’s proposal to levy a tax rate of 11 cents per $100 valuation. Voters will approve or disapprove the proposal in a Nov. 7 referendum. The state average for tax rates for two-year colleges is 24 cents per $100 valuation, Moreno said.
    There are actually a couple of options for expanding into Brownwood, Moreno said. One option is the purchase of the Bank of America building. The other option is to select a site and build a new campus, Moreno said.
    Ranger College does not currently levy taxes in Brown County. If voters approve the tax rate, the revenue it generates will enable Ranger College to expand into Brownwood while keeping its current location at Heartland Mall, Moreno said.

Voters in Erath and Comanche counties will also vote on an 11-cent tax rate in November, but the counties will vote independently and the vote in one county is not binding on the other two, Moreno said earlier.

   If Brown County voters approve the tax rate, Brown County will be become part of the Ranger College District and will have representation on the Board of Regents, Moreno said.
    “Imagine what it will do for urban renewal downtown,” Moreno said. “It won’t be a place where you just take a shortcut to go someplace else. People will actually be going there.”

    Moreno said inclusion in the Ranger College District will provide benefits including:
    •  Students will see a 50 percent reduction in tuition, from $93 to $50 per credit hour.
    • High school students taking six or more credit hours per semester will be eligible for Pell Grants. Ranger College is the only college in Texas to offer Pell rants to eligible high school students.

   • High school students taking high school dual credit who are not eligible for Pell Grants will pay $25 an hour rather than the current $80.
    • Respiratory therapy, surgical technology and radiology technology programs will be added.
    Moreno said he envisions a facility where the cosmetology, LVN and associate nursing degree programs would be located. One possibility for the Heartland Mall location would be locating a childcare technology program there, Moreno said.

   “The first time anyone hears ‘oh, new taxes,’ (people say) ‘we don’t want any new taxes,” Moreno said. He said he thinks voters will approve the tax when they understand the benefit to the community.
    “I always say ‘you are so fortunate, in this size of a community, to have Howard Payne, TSTC and Ranger College,’” Moreno said. “How many places this size can brag of that?”