Northeast Texas voters will decide in November whether the Paris Junior College taxing district should match the school's service region as defined by the State of Texas.
Texans and taxes are famous foes. People in this part of the world are often resistant on principle to taxes of any sort. One manifestation of this is the fact that Texas has no state income tax. That’s a big selling point for many – and those who move here from other parts of the country often cite that as a draw to the Lone Star State. However, state government entities still have to get money from somewhere. One revenue source is property tax. The two-year colleges in Texas have two basic sources of revenue – tuition and fees and property taxes.
Mark Haslett: When it comes to property tax revenue, Paris Junior College has a problem. The school serves six counties in Northeast Texas, including all of Lamar and Delta Counties. According to the state’s designated boundaries, PJC also serves almost all of Hunt County, most of Red River and Hopkins counties, and eastern Fannin County. Not only do students from those areas get the lowest tuition rates, but PJC also has small campuses in Greenville and Sulphur Springs. The problem is that Paris Junior College’s taxing district is composed of a much smaller area – the city limits of Paris and a corner of southeastern Lamar County.
Pam Anglin: Our taxing district is the city limits of Paris and the Old Cunningham School District. S o our taxing district is 44 square miles and we serve 3,848 square miles.
Haslett: Paris Junior College President Pam Anglin.
Anglin: Our operating budget, if you look at ours compared to other institutions our size, ours is going to be smaller. We’re very lean, very efficient. If you look at the data feedback report from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Survey that the Department of Education does every year, we spend less per student in the different expenditure categories. So we’re doing a lot with less.
Haslett: This November, there’s going to be a ballot measure going before Northeast Texas voters asking them whether to expand the Paris Junior College taxing district to correspond with the school’s service area. Specifically, that would add to Delta County – along with parts of Fannin, Hopkins, Hunt, Lamar and Red River counties – property tax of 8 and a half cents per $100 of appraised value. So, for a $100,000 home – about $7 a month. Some homeowners might be ok with that, some, not at all ok with that. What about raising tuition instead?
Anglin: Right now our tuition and fees are at the average point for all 50 (Texas) community colleges. If you look at the surrounding community colleges, we have some that tuition is lower than ours. So there is that point where we really can’t go any higher. And we know with the student population that we serve, so many of them, even a small increase in tuition, locks them out from ever coming to college. So it is very important. Our in-district tuition is $55 per credit hour, our out of district is $100 per credit hour. So by this area voting to come into the taxing district it would mean that all of the students would get that $55 rate instead of that $100.
Haslett: Paris Junior College President Pam Anglin discussing the upcoming ballot initiative to increase the size of the Paris Junior College taxing district.