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Voters asked to approve Issue 61 for Tri-C

By KEVIN KELLEY

For the first time in the school’s 54-year history, Cuyahoga Community College will ask county voters to support a capital improvements bond.

Voters will be asked Nov. 7 to pass a 25-year property tax bond that will would raise $227.5 million for repairs, maintenance and improvements at the college’s facilities across the county, including a proposal to more than double the existing space at the Westshore Campus.

The bond issue will appear on the ballot as Issue 61. If approved, the half-mill tax will add about $17.50 annually for every $100,000 of property valuation.

President Alex Johnson said the need to go to the voters arises from state legislators reducing funding for higher education.

“The state has declined in the supports for higher education and now we find ourselves in a situation where we won’t be able to provide the level of programming that we would like to unless we went out for additional support from (residents) of Cuyahoga County,” he said.

Voters over the years have supported Tri-C by approving tax measures that have gone toward operating costs. But since its founding, the state supplied about 50 percent of the funding the college used for capital improvements. Going forward, the college expects state to only support about 15 percent.

Besides the $227.5 million the bond would generate if approved, the college will contribute $125 million. Currently, about 3 percent of county taxpayers’ property tax dollars go to Tri-C.

The combined $352.5 million would pay for Phase II of Tri-C’s long-term facility-improvement plan started around 2003, Johnson said. The plan undertakes a more extensive maintenance and renovation program with facilities designed primarily to promote workforce development and education, Johnson said. Phase I concluded in about 2011, and included the new advanced technology training center at the Metropolitan Campus  near downtown Cleveland and other facilities to promote individuals getting into what Tri-C calls family-sustaining jobs.

The planned three-story, 84,000-square-foot building at the Westshore Campus on Clemens Road would complement the existing two-floor, 64,000-square-foot building where health care and science courses are taught.

The goal is to open the building by the fall of 2019 and offer liberal arts and engineering courses, said Robert Searson, the campus’s dean of learning and engagement.

The additional classroom space is needed, college officials said, because enrollment has been increasing at the Westshore Campus, which includes the Corporate College West building at the intersection of Columbia and Center Ridge roads. Repairs and upgrades at the Corporate College West building, where information technology courses are taught, are also planned.

Enrollment at the Westshore Campus rose to almost 2,200 in September, an 11 percent jump from last fall, Searsons aid. That figure includes 460 local high school students taking classes through the state’s College Credit Plus program, which allows teens to earn college credit at no cost while in high school.

Across Tri-C’s four campuses and other locations, enrollment reached 23,900, a slight increase from 2016.

The college makes a point of offering training for in-demand jobs, Searson said. Sometimes that means an emphasis of certificate programs over degree programs, and noncredit courses over credit ones, he said.

Tri-C President Alex Johnson said although Issue 61 will raise money strictly for capital projects and not operating expenses, its passage is important in allowing the college to offer relevant courses and training to the community.

“If you take a look at this in the larger scheme of things, it’s going be directed to ensuring a more competent and skilled workforce,” Johnson said.

“We have responded in a laser-like fashion to workforce training and development,” the college president said. “Once individuals complete their education at Tri-C, once they graduate, 85 percent remain in our community, and they benefit us not only through their presence but through their taxes and the leadership that they provide us.”

Tri-C also plans:

– An addition at the Western Campus in Parma dedicated to science, technology, engineering and math programs.

– An addition to the Metropolitan Campus in Cleveland with flexible lab space for engineering and manufacturing courses.

– A Transportation, Distribution and Logistics Academy in Euclid with classroom and training space.

Chagrin Valley Times Reporter Ryan Dentscheff contributed to this story 

 

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