Friday, 05 August 2011
Several community leaders have revived discussions in recent months about Pflugerville ISD joining the Austin Community College taxing district, a move that would raise taxes but allow residents to pay lower tuition at ACC.
Pflugerville Mayor Pro Tem Victor Gonzales said voters would ultimately decide whether PISD becomes a part of the taxing district, but he thinks it is a conversation the community should have.
“My goal is to bring some information and education to the community to give them the opportunity to decide whether they want to do it,” Gonzales said. “I think ACC not only could bring a strong education foundation to Pflugerville but a strong economic foundation as well.”
Gonzales began meeting with ACC and PISD officials earlier this year to talk about the possibility of PISD becoming a part of the ACC taxing district.
PISD is one of the only school districts in the area that ACC has not annexed, even as increasingly more Pflugerville residents enroll in the college every year. According to ACC, 1,265 Pflugerville residents attended ACC in spring 2011, an increase from 681 students four years before.
Students who live outside the ACC district must pay more expensive tuition prices.
In-district tuition for the fall 2011 semester costs $52 per credit hour, compared to $194 for out-of-district students.
But becoming a part of the taxing district would require Pflugerville residents to pay an ACC tax every year. ACC’s tax rate is 9.51 cents per $100 assessed property value. This means residents with $200,000 in property value would pay an additional $190.20 annually.
Mary Hensley, executive vice president of college operations at ACC, said in order for a new area to join the district, state law requires at least 5 percent of registered voters to sign a petition supporting annexation. Then the ACC board of directors would call for a local election.
Communities can be exempt from the petition process if more than 15 percent of their high school graduates have enrolled in ACC in the past five years. Hensley said ACC has not received the most recent enrollment numbers that would decide whether this would apply to Pflugerville.
Gonzales said he is in the preliminary stages of organizing a steering committee that would work to educate residents and get the item on the ballot by November 2012. He has also proposed that PISD partner with ACC to build some kind of facility.
The district already has an ACC center at Hendrickson High School that offers college classes. But Gonzales envisions a separate facility, what he called a technology center, that would be geared toward high school students taking college courses and open to the public as well.
PISD Superintendent Charles Dupre said school board members have not discussed the issue publicly, but at some point will reach a decision about whether they support the initiative.
“Absolutely, as superintendent and as a private citizen, I support the idea that I think it’s good for our kids to be a part of the ACC taxing district. But it’s going to have to come down to: What does the community desire?” Dupre said. “This affects people’s tax, the money they pay. So it’s got to come from them.”