THE ISSUE: Ranger College president Dr. Bill Campion sought to dispel "myths" about the proposed district expansion.
THE IMPACT: Audience questions were fielded during a one-hour forum about the proposed Ranger College District expansion, with a potential November ballot initiative looming.
Ranger College held a public forum Tuesday evening at its Early location in Heartland Mall to discuss the potential November ballot initiative where voters will decide whether to join the Ranger College District.
Joining the district would result in a property tax increase of 11 cents per $100 valuation, or $110 per year on a $100,000 property. In exchange, Brown County would be eligible to elect members to the college’s governing board, cut tuition costs for Brown County students and commit to new facilities and programs in Brownwood.
November’s vote will depend on the successful circulation of a petition, which would need to be signed by 5% of Brown County’s registered voters and submitted to the Ranger College Board of Trustees around July 21.
Local businessman Paul Waldrop began the meeting by welcoming the hundred-plus attendees that packed into the college lecture hall. Ranger administrator Dr. Kerry Schindler then gave an informational slide show presentation about the school.
While Ranger hopes students will stay for Associate’s degrees, Schindler said, many Ranger students also transfer after completing their basic courses or use the college to take dual-credit courses in high school. Ranger is the only school in Texas that can offer federal Pell Grants to high school dual-credit students.
Ranger College president Dr. Bill Campion was the next to speak, and he quickly sought to dispel what he called “myths” about the proposed tax increase.
“I want to tell you right now that the tax is 11 cents per $100 valuation, period,” Campion said. “At 11 cents, we will get — if we get 100 percent collection, and nobody gets 100 percent collection — we will get $2.83 million to fund Ranger College.
“You will not inherit any debt from anybody else," he said.
Campion said the school’s plan, should the initiative pass, is to renovate the former Bank of America building in downtown Brownwood and move its main operations there, though he said the school is committed to maintaining a presence in Early as well.
After Campion’s remarks, various community members spoke on the college’s behalf including Early mayor Bob Mangrum, local businessman Domingo Perez and insurance agent Robert Porter. Early High School’s 2017 valedictorian Courtney Smith talked about taking dual-credit courses through the school. “It was very important for me to be able to take those classes so I can focus on things that are more important to me in college,” she said.
Early sophomore Morgan Kent, daughter of Ranger VP Jennifer Kent, also discussed becoming the first freshman in the district to take dual-credit courses. Kent said she hopes to finish high school with an Associate’s degree in hand.
When the speakers had finished, Campion fielded questions from audience members who had submitted them upon entering the forum. The questions touched on everything from the Ranger relationship with Howard Payne to future tax rate increases to Brown County’s exact representation on the school’s governing board.
Some of his answers were as follows:
• Campion said the college can’t raise the tax rate more than three percent without a public hearing. “And if you go over 7.99 [percent], you’re subject to the rollback tax,” he said.
• On the Howard Payne relationship: “Howard Payne ran into some difficulties starting their nursing program. We hired extra faculty and took care of that …. Frankly, we bailed Howard Payne out, and it was our privilege to do so.” He said Ranger credits should be fully transferable to HPU.
• Regarding tax rate increases, Campion said the board of regents sets the tax rate each year and conceded that there is no guarantee it would stay at its initial level. “That functions the same as the public school boards, really,” he said.
• On how many representatives Brown County will have on the board: “Our board wants immediate representation. We’re having this referendum in three counties, our three most populous counties [Erath, Comanche and Brown]. I cannot answer your question [until the counties vote].” He said the nine-member board was looking at, potentially, four new members.
• On whether Brown County tax revenue will stay here: “I’m glad they didn’t ask that question for the last nine years, because we’ve been bringing our tax revenue to Brown County to supplement what we’re doing here. We would endeavor … to keep all the money that we can in Brown County.”
If the proposal passes in November, Brown County students will see a 50% tuition reduction for Ranger courses. Dual-credit tuition will drop from $85 to $25 per credit hour.
An information sheet handed out by Ranger at the forum entrance says Ranger “intends to offer EMT, paramedics and early childhood education programs” this fall. It says the college is also heavily invested in workforce development, with $5,000,000 spent in Brown County in “workforce training and skill development grants.”
The college has compiled more information about its offerings and proposal online at www.rangercollege.edu/servicebrown.pdf and www.rangercollege.edu/serviceplan.pdf.