Vernon College Officials Hope to Raise Wichita County Taxes

Vernon college wants taxpayers in Wichita County to pay up. The college serves many Texoma communities, but only one county currently pays taxes for the school and it's not the one with the most students.

More than 65% of the Vernon College student population attends one of the three Wichita Falls campuses. Only Wilbarger County residents pay a tax to the school, 22 cents per every $100 of assessed valuation in the jurisdiction.

The President of Vernon College, Dusty R. Johnston, says this is "just the very beginning of a conversation in regard to possible additional revenue to Vernon College. But it doesn't come without thought," he says.

The President and his Board of Trustees are proposing a Branch Campus Maintenance tax for every Wichita County Resident. Johnston says now, lack of funds are put on the shoulders of the students.

"The local tax base covers a lot of those operations and a lot of the faculty operations and the brick and the mortar," he explains. "So since we don't have that tax base in Wichita Falls and Wichita County, then we pass that cost to the students."

The cost comes in the form of District Tuition and Institution Service Fees. Some Vernon College students believe the increased revenue will help those attending classes.

"I think it will benefit us," says one girl running to class.

President Johnston explains the money will go towards "expanding programs, enhancing student services, improving facilities, parking lots, and just making much more opportunity to the students."

Not all students support the proposed hike.

"I'm not for that," says Lisa, a student and Wichita County resident. "I think we pay enough taxes as it is. You know, if it were to mean whether or not the school will stay open or not, that would be another matter. But I feel like we already pay quite a bit as it is."

The President stressed that many factors have to be considered before a tax could be put into place. However, he feels that with the potential cuts to Vernon College from the state, estimated to be between $900,000 and $1.3 million, now is the perfect time to talk about the school's value.

"I think it's going to create a lot of good conservation about the value of Vernon College to Wichita Falls and to Wichita County," he says. "I think there's a lot of people who know how important our operations are to their children, their business, to their industry, to their local high school."

Here is how it breaks down in dollars and cents: President Johnston is proposing a 5 cent hike per $100, the maximum required by law of a branch campus. For a person owning a $100,000 home, roughly $50 a year would be given to the college.

"The very approximated and estimated number is that it would create about $3 million of revenue for the college that doesn't currently exist."

Yet the President stresses the tax cute is still in the beginning of the planning stages.

"If enough people are in agreement with this idea, then we would develop a steering committee. And that steering committee would help us do a feasibility study in regard to the demographics and the needs and the population, and the education needs of the area," he explains.

"If they choose to put it on the ballot, then it would go on a ballot and the voters of Wichita County would have every opportunity to vote for or against it."

Leaders at Vernon College tell Newschannel 6 that $12 million of structure work has already been invested into the Wichita Falls community, at no cost to any tax payer. With or without the tax, the college hopes to start new construction to expand their Wichita Falls facilities in the summer.

Mary Moloney, Newschannel 6.