EARLY — Ranger College president Dr. Bill Campion addressed the Early City Council during its Tuesday evening meeting at Early City Hall, discussing Brown County’s proposed annexation into the Ranger College District.

Ranger’s Board of Trustees recently certified the results of the petition that will officially place the item on Brown County ballots this Nov. 7. Campion talked about the close relationship between Ranger College and Early and said the college is committed to maintaining a presence there.

Specifically, Campion said that Ranger is interested in converting the school’s Heartland Mall location — currently its main Brown County presence — into the home of its early childhood education program. “Early will continue to be a very important part of Ranger College,” Campion said.

Should the college annex Brown County, the school plans to move its main operations into Brownwood, possibly into the former Bank of America building downtown.

Campion said local tax revenue is necessary for the college because the state has drastically reduced its share of community college funding over the past two decades.

Ranger’s bid for annexation has been a contentious issue in Brown County for months. A Facebook group called Citizens Against Ranger Tax Annexation currently has more than 3,700 members, many of whom believe Ranger is misleading the public about its tax rate and its debt.

Campion called such assertions “fake news.”

“We know this is an uphill battle, but we’ve got a chance,” Campion said. “The biggest thing that we fight — and I never believed this stuff existed until we got going — is fake news.”

He reiterated the college’s statement that the total tax rate will be 11 cents per $100 valuation, and said it cannot jump more than one-third of a penny without a public hearing. Brown County students would see a 50 percent drop in tuition costs and dual-enrollment cost would drop from $80 to $25 per credit hour.

The meeting also contained a public hearing on Early’s new proposed property tax rate. Early city administrator Tony Aaron gave a slide-show presentation about the city’s finances and talked about the rate, which would fall to 0.551 per $100 valuation, a 1.2-cent drop.

Aaron detailed the city’s financial situation and said Early will still be able to increase pay for its part-time firefighters, purchase new police cars and keep its various construction projects on schedule with the lower rate. “We had over an 8 percent growth in our total taxable value this year,” he said.

“As Early grows … I think the community, meaning the citizens, should feel the benefit of that growth. Not just the government,” Aaron said.

During the meeting, the council also voted to:

• Approve Ordinance 2017-09, granting a special use permit to place a manufactured home at 212 Sunnyvale.

• Approve a 20-foot variance request to construct a fence at 400 Monte Vista.

• Approve Ordinance 2017-10, amending the 2016-17 fiscal year budget to clarify budgeting for the Pioneer Days Festival.

The council also met in executive session to conduct its annual city administrator evaluation.