A Good Night for Facilities

Voters in New Jersey and in several community college districts approve measures.

November 7, 2012

Voters in New Jersey and a number of community college districts on Tuesday approved bond referendums that will provide millions of dollars for facilities on many campuses.

The measure in New Jersey -- approved as the state is just beginning to recover from Hurricane Sandy -- will authorize $750 million in bonds for higher education facilities. The bonds will pay for $300 million in facilities at public research universities, $247.5 million in facilities at public four-year colleges, $150 million for community colleges, and more than $50 million for private colleges. (The measure excludes bonds for private colleges with endowments in excess of $1 billion, a provision designed to prevent bonds from being issued on behalf of Princeton University, the wealthiest institution in the state.)

Election Day featured a number of measures on behalf of community college districts:

  • Houston voters approved a $425 million bond program that will provide for new facilities in high-demand fields such as the health sciences, technology and engineering for Houston Community College. Mary Spangler, chancellor of the system, said via e-mail that she was thrilled with the 65 percent approval. An editorial in The Houston Chronicle had urged support for the measure, arguing that it would "help HCC build new schools to train the skilled workers that Houston businesses need."
  • In North Carolina, at least two measures passed. In Alamance County, 57 percent of voters approved a $15 million bond for Alamance Community College's new planned advanced applied technology building. The measure is the third passed by the county's voters since 2000. Also on Tuesday, 73 percent of voters in Wake County approved $200 million in bonds for Wake Technical Community College, The News & Observer reported.
  • In California, Solano Community College won a vote to authorize $348 million in bonds for facilities. A focus of the effort will be expanding programs that serve veterans. Jowel Laguerre, president of the college, said via e-mail early Wednesday that the college engages in outreach to local residents all of the time, and that this is key to winning bond votes. People need to realize that "it is was not in time of need they would see me" and "that has paid off."

Bond measures were not faring as well in Michigan.

One measure there that was defeated Tuesday night would have provided $9.9 million for renovations to Jackson Community College. Daniel J. Phelan, president of the college, noted that Tuesday's vote was the 15th straight loss in seeking voter support for bonds for the college in the last 48 years.

Based on focus groups and surveys, Phelan said via e-mail that "our community seems grateful for the work of the college, but feel like they have done enough with the original tax set in 1964." He also noted that current economic conditions "contributed to the returns."

Also in Michigan, Macomb Community College lost a bond vote. Jim Jacobs, the college's president, said via e-mail that he believed there were two major factors, given that there was no formal opposition to the measure. One was "the unfortunate positioning of our county-wide bond proposal right next to six major state-wide proposals, which were hotly contested and almost all voted down. We became collateral damage to the overwhelming no votes on them." The second factor was that "for the past few elections a number of communities had passed significant local millage tax increases including a very controversial tax to the Detroit Institute of Arts, and since our bond proposal cut across all these communities, we became a lightening rod of resentment to being over taxed at the local level."


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