HCC trustees make plans to cover shortfall
College finds itself in need of $67 million more than what voters agreed to in 2003
— reported by the Houston Chronicle
Houston Community College leaders told voters less than three years ago that they could complete a dozen construction projects for $151 million.
Turns out, the leaders are short roughly $67 million.
So HCC’s governing board moved Wednesday to close the gap with a series of financial maneuvers intended to preserve the voter-approved building plan without raising taxes.
In a 7-2 vote, the trustees signed off on a wide-ranging strategy that includes imposing a technology fee on students and delaying the planned renovation to the central campus, a 91-year-old building listed in the National Historic Register.
The trustees also rescinded a planned property tax break. Homeowners won’t be getting the extra 10 percent homestead exemption trustees had previously decided to give.
When voters approved the bond referendum in November 2003, college leaders promised to build or acquire seven new facilities, expand three and renovate two throughout the city, with the intention of adding 772,000 square feet to the college’s existing 2 million square feet.
A HCC study found at the time that the 53,000-student system averaged 66 square feet of space per full-time student, compared with the national urban norm of 110 square feet.
Before the election, University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray told trustees that voters would probably approve the measure, as long as the property tax rate wouldn’t increase more than 1.5 cents per $100 assessed valuation.
Ultimately, property owners in the college’s tax district agreed to pay an additional 1.57 cents per $100 assessed valuation for 25 years, or about $15.70 a year for a $100,000 house without homestead or other exemptions.
The trustees intend to close the gap by redirecting almost $38 million earmarked for renovation and expansion projects at the central and northeast campuses and borrowing against money set aside to maintain aging buildings.
Rescinding the planned homestead exemption would provide as much as $4 million annually for salary increases and other operating costs, Walker said.
Also, the new technology fee of $3.95 per semester credit hour would help to pay for $39 million in equipment, including $15 million that was initially part of the bond plan.