On May 19, Lane County residents will vote on a Lane Community College bond measure—a $121.5 million project to upgrade the college’s facilities and programs.
LCC President Margaret Hamilton said the bond creation processes began in 2017, with a plan that identified over $200 million of building repairs, maintenance, and construction projects. She said the plan addressed 65% of their deferred maintenance budget.
Property Tax Increases and Accountability to the Community
The bond is estimated to increase property taxes by 12 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. This would be a rate of 34 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for all LCC bond debt.
For example, the bond would increase property taxes approximately $3 per month—or $36 per year—for a $300,000 home.
In order to be held accountable by the community, LCC board member Melanie Muenzer said the board passed a Community Benefits Agreement in December, and approved the formation of a bond Oversight Committee in April.
Three Bond Priorities
1. Safety, Security, and Accessibility
Hamilton said about $32 million of the bond would go toward safety, security, and accessibility.
LCC Board member Chelsea Jennings said the bond would fund safety projects to improve the college’s aging infrastructure.
“Some of our buildings at LCC are more than 50 years old, and are therefore seismically and structurally just not up to code,” said Jennings. “And we need to fix that.”
According to Hamilton, these funds would pay for items such as automatic locking mechanisms, communication tools for emergency response; replace roofs, HVAC systems, chillers, boilers, compressed air systems, plumbing, electrical systems, aging elevators; and address ADA accommodations.
“It'll also address the seismic upgrades for eight of 12 buildings that are without seismic correction. And it'll provide funds to repair our parking lots, our exterior lighting, concrete walkways, broken stairs and handrails. IT upgrades will include fiber optic cables, network switches, WiFi ports, and even cyber security upgrades.”
2. Workforce Training and Career Technical Education (CTE)
Hamilton said roughly $12 million would be allocated for upgrading classrooms and learning spaces, and $77 million would address facilities for local workforce and career training.
“When you think about what makes a learning space a 21st century classroom, it would be major upgrades to our math, our arts, our engineering and our science laboratories,” said Hamilton. “It'll be classroom technology and the building of a new cyber security laboratory.”
Hamilton said upgrading facilities for local workforce and career training would allow the college to be known as a regional workforce development center that serves displaced workers and students.
“Funds will be used to expand our manufacturing and our technology programs so that we can finally teach specialized manufacturing like food processing and advanced wood processing,” said Hamilton. “We'll even be building a mobile manufacturing welding lab to bring training directly to the employer on site.”
Bond approval would also allow the college to utilize a matching $8 million state grant to construct a new building that would expand Health Professions programs and the LCC Dental Clinic. Hamilton said this includes the expansion of simulation labs needed to train nurses and health professionals.
3. Local and Affordable Education
Jennings said LCC currently uses general fund dollars to make facility improvements. But an approved bond could mean a larger investment in education.
“If approved by the voters, the bond funds would be used for facility improvements, allowing remaining resources to be invested in education efforts,” said Jennings. “And a voter approved bond measure would help the school avoid—or delay—increasing the cost of tuition.”
If Voters Don’t Pass the Bond
But Munzer said LCC will not be able to complete these projects if the bond is not approved. She said the college would not be able to access the $8 million state grant for the new building to expand health profession programs.
“We only have until the end of the year to obtain the matching funds to access that money,” said Munzer. “And we don't actually think it's possible to get an extension from the state for that match. Unfortunately, there are really only three sources of funds that are available to the college: tuition, state money, and property taxes.”
The state provides money based on the number of students served, and Munzer said that money is to go toward supporting those students. And because of the impending recession from the pandemic, LCC expects the state to make cuts to higher education funding.
“Without the bond, the college will have to rely even more on increasing tuition or program cuts to fund these needs—taking critical resources away from serving our community,” said Munzer. “Such as helping those that are out of work gain new skills to reenter the labor market, and helping the economy recover from the pandemic.”
LCC will hold two more virtual town halls on May 9 at 10 am and 2pm. Questions can be submitted via Zoom during the broadcast, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous town halls are also viewable on the LCC website.
Lane Community College holds the license for KLCC.