Seated at the Brownwood Country Club after talking to the Kiwanis Club Thursday, Abilene resident Gordon Warren — chief of staff of a political action committee called Vote Yes Ranger College — acknowledged the college is “taking a pounding” on social media.
    “We’ll try to put out a calm, clear message, as opposed to ‘Bill Campion is Lucifer and we’re going to rape Brown County,’” Warren said, referring to Ranger College president Dr. Bill Campion.
     “I am interested in education,” Warren said. “I am interested in all receiving a chance at life. Dr. Campion has served several people important to me. I would like to help him serve others.”
    Warren, accompanied by Ranger College Vice President of Workforce Development Dixon Bailey, talked to the Kiwanis Club about the Ranger College annexation vote in Brown, Comanche and Erath counties on Nov. 7. The college’s proposed annexation — which would put the three counties in Ranger College’s district — would provide revenue that would enable the college to expand its programs, benefit the local workforce and, reduce tuition and enable the counties to have representation on the Ranger College board, if voters approve, the college has said.
    Taxpayers in the three counties as well as in the Ranger College school district in Eastland County would be levied a tax rate of 11 cents per $100 valuation, the college has said. The college’s debt service would be rolled into the 11 cents, Warren told the Kiwanis Club Thursday.
    Warren repeated those arguments Thursday, but social media and letters to the Bulletin and other newspapers have stated a large and fierce opposition to what some have called a Ranger College “land grab.”
    Opponents have cited numerous arguments including the belief that taxpayers neither want nor can afford a new tax. Opponents have also argued that the tax will actually be higher than the stated 11 cents and there is nothing to prevent the board from raising the tax rate in future years. Opponents have said Ranger College is lying to voters and have cited Campion’s work history at other community colleges.
    Warren said he understands the argument of Shelby Slawson, an attorney in Erath County who wrote a column posted in Wednesday’s edition of the Stephenville Empire-Tribune.
    While acknowledging that Ranger College has brought benefits to the community, Slawson’s column addressed the tax rate. 
    “Most obviously, the tax rate on the ballot is almost four times what you stated in your service plan,” Slawson wrote. “I mean, I get it: The ballot is required to state the rate you adopted last month for the Eastland County district—not the rate you anticipate applying to our county. I’m also aware that around half the rate charged in Eastland County is for debt service for construction projects at the Eastland County campus.
  “But Ranger, let’s be honest: that’s still a pretty telling illustration of what happened when you asked another community to go all the way with you, and they said OK … We’re not ready to go there with you, Ranger—not to $0.11 and certainly not to $0.434405. “
    Warren said an “average” Brown County home would see a Ranger College tax bill of $9.27 a month if voters approve the annexation.
    “Nobody here’s excited to pay more taxes,” Warren said, but argued that the county is getting a good return on its investment in Ranger College.
    “What the election is really about here is two things,” Warren said. “One, are we going to help people that are trying to get started and we want them to be part of our tax base? We want them off of social services. We can help them become marketable and have real jobs.
    “And the second thing is, who’s going to control Ranger College in the future? I think the future of Ranger College is right here in Brown County. It’s going to be a fair ratio of voters to board members.”
    Bailey, of the college’s Workforce Development division, said Ranger College is stretched thin, with 2 percent of its budget coming from its tax base. “We are challenged because of budget constraints,” Bailey said.
    A new source of revenue would enable the college to provide “a quicker and better trained workforce,” Bailey said. “If resources from anywhere came in, you’d have resources to do more, quicker.”
    Bailey gave Kiwanis Club members several statistics related to the college and said grants have funded tuition, feels, technical equipment, curriculum and instruction to upgrade the skills of 733 employees and 134 new jobs in Brownwood.
    Training in partnership with local industry has generated a yearly increase in wages of $576,000 for existing workers and $4.3 million in wages for new jobs, Bailey said.
    “Is Brownwood better since Ranger College moved in?” Bailey asked.