The state has slashed the community college's budget by 23%. But Dr. Willis Lott says enrollment keeps going up. "As we prepare for the future to serve the citizens of Harrison County, your constituents, we need to grow in preparation for that growth in enrollment and service to your people."
To do that, Lott says the college needs $42 million from the four counties where the college has campuses. He says the money will be used for college wide capital improvements. "If we're going to be prepared to meet the educational needs on the freshmen and sophomore, as well as career and technical side this issue is very critical to the future of the college," Lott says.
If the college trustees okay a bond issue each county would be asked to pitch in. For Harrison County that's about $2 million a year for 15 years. The supervisors say they're all for better education, but such a hefty amount of money might require the voters approval, and even a tax hike. Larry Benefield, District 2, says, "Of course the junior college has been a good long term investment for the taxpayers but when it comes to making that kind of decision, anything of that magnitude I think probably the board will certainly hear from the taxpayers." "I do believe anytime you're gonna have that amount of a bond issue you're gonna have to discuss that with the voters," says District 4 Supervisor William Martin. Bobby Eleuterius, District 1 says, "We'll have to find out what the public wants instead of just the five of us voting and saying hey let's do it and move on."
Harrison County hasn't raised taxes in ten years. The supervisors say, however, a tax hike might be necessary if the $42 million bond issue is approved. Lott told the supervisors he would meet again with them in either July or August.