Advocate editorial opinion: Community must prepare for future prosperity

By the Advocate Editorial Board
March 10, 2012 at 6 p.m.
Updated March 9, 2012 at 9:10 p.m.

By now, most residents in Victoria have heard that Victoria College wants approval of a $22 million bond issue. The bond would fund a new Emerging Technology Center.

We think our workforce is key to our well-being and the community's economy. And this new addition to Victoria College would ensure that our businesses and industry, as well as ones moving into the area, would have a desirable workforce.

"The Emerging Technology Center allows us to meet the training needs of our partners in the expanding petrochemical and oil and gas industries, as well as the needs of new industries such as Caterpillar and its suppliers. Much of that training will be customized to meet their needs," said VC President Tom Butler.

Victoria has a fairly low employment rate, and we applaud Victoria College for this. Jobs are important, specifically primary jobs, such as those in manufacturing, process technology and various services.

"We're hearing this from local businesses," said Victoria Economic Development Corp. President Dale Fowler.

We agree and think investing in more education is always good. With a great workforce, the community's economy stabilizes, and the burden of taxes is spread when new industry and jobs become available.

"We also plan to develop new programs in high demand areas to give our students the skills they need to get the emerging jobs in these fields. Examples of new programs currently being planned include industrial systems mechanic, machinist, oil and gas technician, and logistics and operations management specialist. Students will then have more opportunities to get good jobs in Victoria," Butler said.

The college already has helped the local economy with a 2006 General Obligation Bond that financed the $15.5 million Health Science Center. Those funds also helped to renovate the Allied Health Building - now home to the college's nursing and Allied Health programs and an expanded offering of physical therapy assistant program.

"VC is the No. 1 provider of health care workers in our region," Butler said. And recently, the VC board of trustees approved the refinancing of the 2006 bonds to obtain a lower rate - the college is waiting for the right date to complete the transaction.

When workers become more qualified, they invest in homes and purchase more goods. That means they pay ad valorem taxes and contribute to the sales tax - benefiting the economy.

VC's current tax is 16.06 cents for every $100 of property value. Some current tax rates at other community colleges include the following: Alvin Community College, 19.9 cents; Angelina College, 16.7 cents; Brazosport College, 23.9 cents; Coastal Bend College, 16.8 cents; and Wharton County Junior College, 14.4 cents.

The estimated impact on the VC tax rate would be an additional 2.9 cents. A homeowner with a $100,000 home who currently pays $160.60 a year would pay an additional $29.70 a year.

But as more industry moves in the area like Caterpillar Inc., more employees and new entities share in the tax burden. And tax abatements end after 10 years.

We think abatements are necessary to remind industry considering a move to Victoria that it is available, and that the city welcomes the business.

Our community always has been conservative. We don't think anybody would disagree. As well, Victoria College has been consistently conservative, stable and overseen by good fiscal management. We don't see that changing. What we see is admirable forward thinking.

Industry is looking at us - every aspect of the community, including the public school dropout rate, according to Fowler.

"In order to be attractive to businesses planning to expand or relocate to Victoria we must demonstrate that Victoria has the skilled workforce they need. The Center will allow us to do just that," Butler said.

While the college is preparing for our futures, we should address that dropout rate and make our community even more attractive.

After all, we must educate our youth and prepare them for the future.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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