Members of the Weatherford College Board of Trustees have varying opinions on the college’s participation in a City of Weatherford Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ).
Administrators from the city presented information to the board on the TIRZ at their Thursday meeting.
Board Chair Frank Martin is not in favor of the college participating in the TIRZ. He said he doesn’t see that it fits in with the mission of the college, and he is concerned it could set a difficult precedent for the college should they be presented with TIRZ programs from other cities within the college’s taxing district.
“Nowhere can I find any indication that we expend or obligate college money to support any non-college related construction activities,” Martin said. “Financially supporting a TIRZ is not even in the realm of expectations set out for the college’s funds.
“The WC Board of trustees were elected by the voters of the entirety of Parker County,” he continued. “With approximately 121,000 residents in the county and only about 27,000 (22 percent) residing in the City of Weatherford, supporting a City of Weatherford TIRZ would be using funds owned by all of the residents and would not be fair and would not allow those funds to be utilized solely for education, for which they are obligated.”
The purpose of the TIRZ is to encourage the growth of new business and industry in areas that are currently undesirable due to the lack of current infrastructure in Weatherford. The TIRZ program would build new infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, in areas that are prime locations for new business and industry to build. These projects would be funded by a portion of the new taxes that are generated by the new businesses and industry in the TIRZ.
The city is asking the college to participate by donating a percentage of future tax revenues from the zones to the TIRZ. The Parker County Hospital District has already agreed to join the TIRZ, and Parker County has yet to make a decision.
City administrators said they are ready to move forward with the TIRZ the first of May regardless of which entities have agreed to partner on the project; however, the amount of participation from area taxing entities will affect the amount of time it takes for projects to be completed and could require the city to re-prioritize the projects.
College President Dr. Kevin Eaton said the college is in favor of supporting anything that can generate revenue at a faster pace, but that he sees both sides of the argument.
“From my point of view and from the Cabinet’s point of view, if we can bring more revenue in we’re supportive of that,” Eaton said. “But this is one of those things that you don’t know if it would have come in anyway. It’s a difficult situation. We have no guarantee.”
Board member Mac Smith requested the college administration gather more information on how and if other community colleges have participated in a TIRZ.
“It’s intriguing to me,” Smith said. “I don’t want to miss the chance if this is going to be an opportunity for us not only to develop the area that we have in common here; all of these different projects look like they have potential. If those projects, and the things that can be done as a result of that, are going to generate a real opportunity for us here, then I’d like to know that. I want to know what Weatherford College’s potential is.”
In other business the board:
- Approved an order authorizing the refinancing of bonds from 2007, which originated in 1996, at a lower interest rate. The college will save more than $30,000 a year with the refinancing.
- Listened to the WC Foundation annual report.
- Held a workshop on the 2016-17 budget.
In his president’s report, Eaton:
- Recognized Tonya Edwards and the entire WC Respiratory Care Program on their achievement of earning the Distinguished RRT Credentialing Success Award from the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care.
- Recognized WC basketball players for being names to the All-Conference Team: Vlatko Granic – First Team, Deris Duncan – Second Team, Greta Kairyte – Honorable Mention.