If enough signatures are obtained — five percent of the jurisdiction’s voters — Erath County residents could find themselves voting in an annexation election in November to bring the county into the Ranger College District.
“Communities are considered ‘out-of-district’ unless the voters have chosen (by election) to join the College District and thus becomes an ‘in-district’ member,” reads a FAQ release from Ranger.
The district would also include Brown and Comanche counties and would have residents pay a property tax and in turn Ranger College would offer more services, decreased tuition and allow eligible high school students taking six or more college credit hours to receive Pell grants.
There would also be a property tax rate of $.11 per $100 assessed property valuation and a governing board would be elected — much like any school board — to set policies and approve programs.
At Wednesday’s public hearing many voiced concern about the tax rate increase.
“The board would not be able to increase the tax rate more than $.008 without a vote by the people,” said President of Ranger College Dr. Bill Campion.
However, he did not deny that it could go up in the future.
“Everything has the potential of going up,” Campion said. “But it would be based on a governing board.”
To put the tax rate in perspective, residents would pay $198 per year with a home valued at $180,000 — which is the average.
Another question raised was what would bringing Erath County into the Ranger College District do for the community.
“It will bring many more services to Erath County much more quickly. For example, there’s a strong need for fire sciences — a fire academy,” Campion said. “But if we don’t have some help, then we don’t have money to do that.”
Tuition costs for residents would go from $93 per credit hour to $50 and tuition rates for dual enrollment high school students would go from $80 to $25 per credit hour.
Other benefits include continued access to the seven-figure workforce grants and dual credit for high school students with the primary goal being that more students will receive an associate’s degree at the time they graduate.
“Our dual credit has risen 83 percent over the past three years,” said Stephenville ISD Superintendent Matt Underwood. “The spring of 2018 we will, for the first time, have kids walking across the stage picking up an associate’s degree as well as their diplomas. What’s happened in my eyes over the past three years is above the call of duty.”
A citizen expressed concern on how the petitions were circulating saying that the people asking for signatures aren’t educated on the issue.
“We’re going to deal with that first thing in the morning and talk with the company we’re working with,” Campion said.
Ranger also offers vocational and workforce development grants to train and certify area workers and in the fall plans to include EMT, paramedics and early childhood education programs with the continuation and expansion of welding and machining programs.
Stephenville Mayor Kenny Weldon said that regardless of what happens with the tax issue, Ranger plays an important role in the community.
“The heart and soul of this nation is built on the backs of vocational education. Those blue collar workers are so blessed to have FMC, Saint Gobain and Schreiber here and our community would not survive without them,” Weldon said. “They provide such an important role to our community. If we didn’t have Ranger doing the great things they’re doing, that money would go to Houston or Austin.”
Time ran out before all questions could be addressed but Kerry Schindler, Ranger’s new senior vice president for instruction, said the college will hold additional meetings in the near future to answer more questions.
“We’re not here to be combative. We need your help, we need your partnership,” Campion said.