Pulaski Technical College will ask Pulaski County voters on March 11 to approve a local funding initiative to provide what supporters are calling much-needed support for the college’s operations and capital projects.
While the official vote is on March 11, early voting started Tuesday and will continue Friday at the William F. Laman Library, 2801 Orange St., North Little Rock. The polls stay open at the library from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Another early voting site is the Pulaski County Regional Building, 501 W. Markham St., Little Rock. Early voting can be done through Monday, March 10. This site will not be open on weekends and will remain open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the weekday.
The college’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously in December to ask voters for 1.9 mills per dollar of assessed valuation. A special election would be March 11. If approved, the millage will raise about $11.4 million.
Revenue would be collected beginning in 2015, and the college would begin receiving revenues in 2016.
"This college has a tremendous impact on the community," said Dr. Margaret Ellibee, the college president. "Our graduates enjoy greater financial security and prosperity, which in turn makes central Arkansas a better place to work and live. Pulaski Tech gives back much more than it takes in, and this makes us a great investment for Pulaski County."
Pulaski Tech is the largest of the state’s 22 two-year colleges. This fall, the college has 10,528 students - the second highest undergraduate enrollment in the state behind the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.
All but six of the state’s two-year colleges get local financial support from the communities they serve. Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville, for example, has the second highest enrollment behind Pulaski Tech and receives 2.5 mills, the second highest millage in the state for a community college. MidSouth Community College in West Memphis receives 4 mills, the highest in the state.
Pulaski Tech’s main funding sources are student tuition and state funding. However, the college is only funded at about half the level that the state’s funding formula recommends. The college receives $2,010 per student in state funding. The state average is $3,714 per student.
"We have implemented steady but modest tuition increases almost yearly in recent memory, so local funding is something we’ve known we needed for a long time," said Pulaski Tech Board of Trustees Chair Ronald Dedman. "There’s never a perfect time to ask voters for more money, but this is the right time for us. We are asking the community that we have been serving help us accomplish our mission. Without their support, we cannot continue to reach the populations that we reach and meet the needs of our business and industry to our fullest capability. Our history of success demonstrates that Pulaski Tech is a sound investment. I believe in my heart that the people of this community know and appreciate that we are a worthy investment of the public trust."
Of the college’s total enrollment of 10,528 students, 7,549, or 71.7 percent, live in Pulaski County. Pulaski County residents who attend Pulaski Tech would receive a $10 per credit hour tuition discount. A Pulaski County resident taking 15 hours per semester would save $300 per year.
The extra revenues would be spread over several future priorities:
— Improvements to Pulaski Tech internal operations in academic advising, student counseling, IT infrastructure and data systems- to improve student services and increase student success. ($11.5 million)
— Renovating math and science labs on the Main Campus in North Little Rock- to increase student success in STEM disciplines. ($4 million)
— Community Education expansion in Maumelle, Sherwood, and Jacksonville, as well as Little Rock and North Little Rock - to respond to community needs for non-credit education. ($100,000)
— Technical/Industrial/Advanced Manufacturing program updates and improvements- to respond to local business, industry and workforce training needs. ($10 million)
— Ongoing costs for advanced manufacturing. ($750,000 annually)
— Information Technology workforce training center - partnerships in Little Rock business community to integrate student learning within the business community. ($5 million to $10 million)
— Ongoing operational costs for an IT center. ($2.5 million annually)
The initiative’s title will appear on the ballot as "1.9 Mills Tax for Pulaski Tech nical College District." The college’s tax district includes all of Pulaski County.
A mill is one-tenth of one cent, and property taxes are applied to 20 percent of a home’s assessed value. The proposed millage would increase the annual property tax bill by $38 for a home valued at $100,000, based on 2012 Assessed Property values in Pulaski County and a 95 percent collection rate.