By Joanna Armstrong
Amidst applause, Northeast Texas Community College President Dr. Brad Johnson announced that the voters had approved the tax cap increase. After failing in the last November election, preliminary numbers showed that the proposition, which asked to raise the tax cap from 10 cents per $100 valuation to 13 cents, passed by 201 votes.
“All right, true confession, am I the only one in the room who’s getting more and more anxious the longer we sit here?” Johnson jokingly asked the small group gathered in the administration building as they awaited the results of the election. The night started off a little rocky when the numbers showed that the proposition failed in Camp County in early voting, but Titus and Morris counties carried with those who cast early ballots, passing it by almost 200 votes.
The numbers for early voting were: Camp County, 75 for, 99 against; Morris County, 137 for, 82 against; Titus County 602 for, 436 against.
Election Day preliminary tallies for the three counties were: Camp County, 85 for, 66 against; Morris County, 186 for, 159 against; and Titus County, 110 for, 152 against.
When the numbers came in, Johnson addressed the supporters in attendance. “Everybody was personally invested in this who’s here tonight, and I am so thankful for what you did. Think about how close this is,” he said. “I’m tickled. It’s a good victory, but it is still close. And if you think about it, those things that you all did, if you had not done those, we would not have won.”
NTCC Vice President for Advancement Dr. Jonathan McCullough personally thanked the students who made phone calls asking people in the community to vote. “You made an impact on the future of this college,” said McCullough.
In a statement, Johnson expressed his appreciation for those who helped with the election. “We are grateful and excited to meet the challenges before us. Passing this referendum will help us serve the region for the next 30 years,” he said. “I was pleased to see a heavy turnout for a May election, and I am grateful to the many people who helped make that happen.”
Now that the college has the funds to pay for the $19.9 million in bonds approved in November, Johnson said the next step is for the board to canvas the election at their next meeting on May 19.
“The construction firm and the architect and the college together will finalize the plans for the renovations and then work will begin just as quickly after that as we can do so,” he said. “Some work could begin as early as this summer, probably on the waste water treatment expansion.”
Mary Katherine Milam, former NTCC student and member of the political action committee Friends of NTCC, said, “I am very excited about what this means for the future of our college and, more importantly, our community. Local students will continue to be able to stay close to home if they so choose and save a lot of money. The college will continue to be able to train all of our first responders, firemen, police, EMT’s, nurses, the list goes on.”
Milam talked about the benefit the college brings to the community. “The college will be even more of an economic driver in our area,” she said. “NTCC has more than a $30 million economic impact on our community each year. I cannot imagine where we would be without the college in our future. We are blessed to have a community that values education and supported this college in a time of need.”
When asked how he thought the proposition would benefit the students, NTCC Executive Vice President for Instruction Dr. Ron Clinton, said, “It’s going to be hard to put words to that. I think this is just a great testament to the way the community values the college, and I think in terms of the future of the college, it’s going to put the college on a much better, very firm foundation for the future.”
While Johnson said the tax increase and bond measure will allow the college to do some much needed maintenance, the main focus was the campus improvements that will be put in place for the students. “It’s going to bring our facilities in line with the way that we do college today,” he said. “I think it’s really going to improve the experience that students have.”