Fight brewing over HCC annexation

October 27, 2009 4:00:47 PM PDT
A fight is building over a proposal by the Houston Community College to annex two local school districts. HCC wants to bring in Spring Branch and North Forest ISDs and now homeowners in those areas are weighing the tradeoff: reduced tuition for higher property taxes.

The proposition is on the November 3 ballot. HCC in Spring Branch says it needs to expand in order to accommodate a growing enrollment, but many property owners are saying not on their dime.

Sharleen Muir, 34, is an LPN working on her RN degree at HCC Spring Branch campus.

"Having a community-based college that is accessible and not as expensive as probably a traditional university has made it quite affordable," said Muir.

She is one of 7,600 students at the HCC Spring Branch location. HCC's Northwest President, Dr. Zachary Hodges, says they expect the number to double.

"HCC has grown significantly over the last couple of years," said Dr. Hodges.

In the 1990s the state legislature put school districts in HCC service areas. Communities then decide to bring it to a property tax vote. If it passes, residents get half tuition and free dual credit.

"Ultimately, it's the community that has to make that decision. Is it an expense or is it an investment?" Dr. Hodges said.

The proposition has stirred opposition in residents like Gene Frazier.

"I like HCC and I think it's a great, positive thing. The question is it a taxation that we should put on our people to require them to support this?" said Frazier.

If the proposition passes, homeowners under 65 would pay an additional $83.19 for every $100,000 in property value. Frazier says it hits him twice: at home and at work where the proposition would add more than $3,500 in taxes to his restaurant supply business.

No one seems to be arguing the quality of education students like Sharleen Muir are receiving.

"It's not easy, but by the grace of god, I'll make it," said Muir.

What is up for debate is who will pay for it.

Early voting has already started on this proposition with decision day being next Tuesday. A similar proposition is on the ballot in North Forest ISD, however we have not seen the organized opposition there like we have seen in Spring Branch.

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