Dear Ranger College:

We need to talk.  It’s about your Nov. 7 tax annexation election.

Ranger, I’ll be the first to say you’ve brought some welcome benefits to our community. Education of the individual is vital to the economic health of society, and an institution providing students with vocational training, certifications and associate degrees offers long-term value for our entire community.

I will also agree there is quantifiable value in your ability to partner with local major employers to secure workforce development grants (outside money) used for training of local employees (our neighbors) resulting in increased wages for those employees (as required by the grant). I know these workforce development partnerships have been used by existing employers and are likewise attractive to new potential employers for which a trained, skilled workforce is a critical component of their location selection.

I’ll even agree that if you’re ready to take our relationship to the next level, it’s something we should discuss.

But holy cluster, Ranger.  This conversation is a disaster.

The campaign has been a flurry of confusing information, and the dialogue is getting increasingly messy and contentious. It seems we’re rapidly losing sight of what we are to one another—and over 7,400 citizens have united in a Facebook group to organize a stand against your tax annexation. Yikes, RC.

Look, I’ve read the service plan you published in May and it plainly states that if you annex us, you anticipate an initial property tax rate of $0.11 per $100 valuation. 

I know that for the tenant in my $100,000 rent house, that will mean a rent increase of $110/year. 

I know that for the retired relative in their $250,000 dream home, even after a small $5,000 over-65 exemption, they will pay an additional tax of $269/year. 

What I can’t figure is where to tell those hard-working, just-barely-over-minimum-wage earners and those fixed-income retirees to find the extra dollars to subsidize someone else’s junior college education.

Moreover, the statute requiring you to publish that service plan (Tex. Educ. Code 130.065(c)) also states the “service plan is informational only.”  In other words, you’re not bound to the $0.11 rate in the plan, not now, not next year, not ever.  That’s a problem.

See, I know that when I go to the poll on Nov. 7, the ballot is going to ask me, with these exact words, whether I am “for” or “against”:

“Approving the annexation by Ranger College of the following territory: Erath County, and authorizing the imposition of an ad valorem tax for junior college purposes, which is currently set at a rate of $0.434405 per $100 valuation of taxable property.”

Now, a couple things. 

Most obviously, the tax rate on the ballot is almost four times what you stated in your service plan.

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.

The same $100,000 rent house in Eastland County would see a rent increase of $434/year, just to keep up with the taxes.

The same retiree in a $250,000 dream home in Eastland County would have to find an additional $1,064/year to pay you in property taxes.

We’re not ready to go there with you, Ranger—not to $0.11 and certainly not to $0.434405. 

Not when our communities are wrestling with how to finance major infrastructure upgrades.

Not when our ISDs are prioritizing which facilities utilized by all of our children are in the most dire need of repair and replacement.

In a laundry list of competing community needs, you are a ‘want.’ 

While most of us understand, intellectually, that a vote “for” in Erath County isn’t actually a vote in favor of that astronomical $0.434405 tax rate . . . it is still symbolically an indication of our okayness with exactly that.

I appreciate your junior college mission for providing vocational and tech training to develop a skills-ready workforce.  But I know which button I’ll be pushing on Nov. 7.

No taxation for junior college education.

Respectfully,

Shelby Slawson

Erath County

Shelby Slawson - attorney, mom, writer, and ever-aspiring trophy wife - is a member of the E-T’s community columnists. She can be reached at shelby@slawsonlawfirm.com.