Recently the current President of EITC, who appears to greatly want to "grow his kingdom" critized several points we make on front page. Below are our first points in black, then his points in red, and our counter points in blue. We think most voters will vote no to creating a new Taxing District.
IdaHope PAC Group Responds to Incomplete Answers from EITC spokesman
Recently the president of the local technical college, Richard Aman, provided responses to some of our concerns posted on our website, www.whyacommunitycollege.com. These responses dodged several issues and seemed to leave out critical information. Below, please find our original concerns in black, Pres. Aman’s written responses in red, as shown on the website of KIFI TV8, and our counter in blue after those comments. All items below are opinions from various taxpayers in the area.
To be sure, members of the EITC administration are basically paid campaigners for this new taxing district, with most of their paychecks coming from taxpayer money. Our money. This campaign is, in part, to create a new taxing district, so they can “grow their kingdom” as they say, increase their power, and perhaps gain larger paychecks. All of this, of course, is paid for by the taxpayers. We think that is a conflict of interest and all EITC administration should recuse themselves from this campaign. It seems they are using our own tax dollars to lobby us to vote for another tax increase, from which they likely would personally benefit. There’s a reason Idaho law prohibits taxing entities from lobbying for higher taxes. (Documentation upon request.)
President of EITC responds to group who opposes possible change to a community college
By: Staff Writer
Posted: Mar 06, 2017 09:28 PM MST
Updated: Mar 06, 2017 09:28 PM MST
1. If this was such a good idea why doesn't it financially support itself? In other words, why do we have to create a new taxing district to help subsidize this effort?
State Statute requires a “taxing district” be established to create a community college. There is no other way by law to create a community college. At year one with 1,500 students, property tax will account for 5% of revenue.
Our contention wasn’t about the mechanics and state requirements, it was pointing out that this is a money-losing proposal from the start, requiring taxpayers, some on very limited incomes, to participate in paying for this change. Imagine a widow on a break-even budget, coming down to her last $15 dollars for the year. The decision is whether to buy food or pay the new tax. If she doesn’t pay the new tax, she could lose her home in a tax auction. We think that is wrong. To some, one more new tax might not matter much. But assuming EVERYONE can afford this proposed new tax is just being insensitive to those on a tight budget, often the most vulnerable in our society.
Here’s the bigger picture: this project does not stand on its own without local taxpayer subsidies. Each voter will see very little personally in return. Why not raise tuition to meet your needs, and have your taxing district (because, as you claim, it is required by law) levy a tax at 1 penny per $100,000.00 in value? What expenses can the college cut to make it pay its own way like the taxpayers have to do in their personal budgets each and every day?
2. We have a huge amount of post high school educational opportunities right now! Dozens and dozens of Associate Degrees are available within 50 miles of Idaho Falls.
There are only three post-secondary institutions delivering 2 year degrees - BYUI, ISU and CSI. BYUI as a private institution is not an “open enrollment” institution and has no public mission aimed at the region and region’s workforce. Additionally, it has a fairly high admission standards (many first generation students would not qualify to attend). CSI has very limited capacity in Idaho Falls, students from Idaho Falls would need to move to CSI. ISU has both “general education” and “technical degrees,” but there are high admission standards and the cost is 3X the cost of a community college. Students would need to drive to the ISU campus in Pocatello for most AAS degrees.
Is this their best argument? Seriously? Only three institutions? That is far more opportunities than most cities the size of Idaho Falls can boast. And if you wish to compare our area to larger metropolitan centers, a commute of 45 minutes is nothing. If there is a true need for your product in the educational marketplace, existing organizations already in place will fill that need. CSI Idaho Falls, ISU Idaho Falls, and others will expand here. Let’s not forget - most young people want to leave the area after high school to explore the world. If not, they could be at an ever-expanding CSI-Idaho Falls campus, or University Place, which has class offerings from many universities. The fact is, local kids are not flocking to a local community college that is already here. The CSI presence is basically a test marketing model which is already in place. It is showing local high school kids don’t stay around and enroll in a local community college at a rate that is even close to what community college proponents claim.
3. The future of education is in online learning... we are not keeping up with the times thinking of expanding a brick and mortar educational system.
A new community college would significantly utilized online and hybrid learning as a means to deliver these programs both in Bonneville Co. and to our nine county region. Online and hybrid as they mature would prevent having to build brick and mortar buildings as student demand exceeds 4,000 on campus. Online learning is not suitable for all programs such as nursing, welding, diesel tech, machine tool, etc. Innovative colleges utilize a combination of brick and mortal, hybrid and online to maximize learning opportunities based on the type of classes and to support non-traditional students who may be working and have families.
This response indicates a desire to create a new taxing district so the local community college can offer online classes to compete with the thousands of other online classes already available from other places. The “hands on” programs mentioned above, i.e., welding and nursing, are already offered at EITC. And EITC can expand its courses without a new tax district.
4. Even with a Community College in Idaho Falls, whenever a Bonneville County student attends CSI or other state community colleges the county still pays a tuition subsidy. That does not go away. And people attend CSI and other schools for specific programs. For example, CSI has a top baseball program. Since students already can get an Associate’s Degree locally, having a community college here won't reduce what the county pays by much.
Bonneville County currently transfers $50/credit to CSI for each credit hour Bonneville County students take at CSI. This transfer is discontinued as the County resident’s fund their community college with property tax.
We have been told by local and state officials that the above statement is simply wrong, specifically the “transfer is discontinued as the county residents fund their community college.” We were told this transfer happens even if we have a community college. It does not stop. If we have a college in Bonneville County, and a local student elects to go to CSI, perhaps to play on their famous baseball team, we still pay that transfer. Having a community college does not stop that transfer fee for students that go to CSI or CNI, etc. Please show us otherwise.
5. EITC can still expand many course offerings while remaining a technical college.
EITC as a “technical college” by state statute is prohibited from delivering any “General Education/Transfer Credits” beyond what is needed by EITC Associate of Applied Science Degrees. EITC is prohibited in support Dual Credit in High Schools. EITC cannot offer the college transfer degrees of Associate of Science or Associate of Arts because of its status of a technical college. EITC can only offer “terminal” Associate of Applied Science degrees which tend to end in a job, and in most cases cannot be articulated into a university bachelor’s program. A status change to a community college opens the same educational opportunities of Idaho’s three existing community colleges to residents of eastern Idaho.
We’re sorry to hear “degrees which tend to end in a job” spoken of in a derissive tone. We thought “a job” was what most post-secondary students were aiming for. And don’t forget: often our highest-earning business people do not have a degree of any kind. Our contention, again, is that this additional coursework is already offered by a host of existing institutions. Most students seeking these opportunities choose to leave this area anyway, as indicated by the few who choose to utilize CSI classes in the Idaho Falls area.
6. EITC is landlocked by some of the most expensive real estate in the region. The dream of EITC becoming a 4 year school, or even a CSI which is on dozens of acres, is absurd. It is in a bad location surrounded by expensive real estate that would cost too much to expand.
EITC owns in excess of 60 acres which is perfectly situated to deliver community college programming to Idaho Falls and the surrounding region. There is ample space to expand buildings if needed and the property is bordered to the north by additional City of Idaho Falls property which is currently vacant. EITC is currently owned by the Idaho State Board of Education. Given the CWI scenario, the 60 acres would be deeded to the newly established community college district and would be given local control from 5 Trustees who are residents of Bonneville County. Bonneville Co. through the 5 Trustees establish local control of the campus facilities and the delivery of community college programming.
Perhaps more was revealed in that response than was actually intended. One of the big selling points in favor of a community college is that “no new buildings would need to be built, thus saving millions in taxes”. Yet this response is an apparent 180 turn, touting the available land on which to build in the future. This does seem to be a bit of a conundrum.
By the time necessary parking lots, open spaces, dormitories, etc., are figured in, those 60 acres won’t stretch far. We invite you to take a look at the map of CSI here: http://virtualtour.csi.edu/map/. It’s not often one can foretell the future, but a similar campus seems to be in Bonneville County’s crystal ball. Yes, there are grand plans for the proposed Idaho Falls community college.
The mention of College of Western Idaho, CWI, does raise interesting questions. That college took over 2 existing campuses, and STILL requested a $180 million bond just last fall. For more details, see below.
Speaking of the location, the impacts on traffic will be gargantuan. The Hitt Road and 17th St. area is the most congested in the region. Imagine thousands of additional cars passing through that intersection multiple times a day.
7. The costs to all of us seem very understated. The opening request is about $14.00 per year per $100,000 of taxable value in the county. If you own an apartment building, commercial building, or other rentals, you could be paying hundreds of dollars each year in new taxes. And unlike a school bond which has a final payoff, this taxing district goes on essentially forever! When they want to add more programs or buildings, the rate we all pay may go way up!
The Bonneville Co. millage rate cannot go up beyond the amount established by the Trustees without another vote of the citizens. New buildings cannot be funded by taxpayer funds, even if they are needed due to unanticipated and rapid growth, without the agreement of 2/3 of Bonneville Co. voters.
This is completely erroneous information according to the Idaho State tax commission officials we spoke with this week. Under Idaho statute, we were told, the mil rate can automatically increase 3% each and every year (compounded), with no voter approval required. Additionally, there is a formula whereby existing taxpayers actually can be charged more on their taxes if there is any new construction growth in the district.
Even more alarming is the little-known taxing mechanism known as “foregone taxes”, and it is startling. Basically, this is how it works: those who set the tax or mil rate may decide next year NOT to raise it by the 3% allowed by law, without any further authority or permission from anyone. Perhaps for several years they are conservative and keep the mil rate the same. Then one day they decide there is a need for more of our taxpayer money. Under “forgone tax” rules in Idaho, this group can go back to the previous years when the rate was not increased, and with only a local hearing, move to collect all the money not collected.
This is not understood by the average taxpayer, and with good reason – most folks just can’t believe it can be done. It is essentially a huge built-in tax increase that just grows and grows and grows. Over a ten-year period, your taxes can grow by over a third, all without further voter approval. And to capture these back taxes, all that is needed is one simple hearing. Again, to be clear, Idaho laws allow a taxing district to go back in time to tax you and collect all the money that they chose not to collect earlier. This is “forgone tax.”
With this in mind, it appears that college proponents didn’t tell us the complete truth in their response. We have learned that the taxpayers in Twin Falls County annually pay about 7 times the starter or “teaser rate” of taxes Bonneville County residents have been told to expect. This is mainly because Twin Falls residents are paying for massive construction of new buildings at CSI. Yes, with all this land to grow, it appears EITC has plans to build in the future, as well. Sounds like future tax increases to us.
Interestingly, the College of Western Idaho (CWI), located in Nampa, ID, was established in 2007, by a vote of Canyon and Ada county voters. These two counties combined contain over 5 times the population of Bonneville County. CWI took over two existing campuses, complete with buildings, but just last fall, floated a bond for $180 million dollars for additional buildings. This is exactly what Bonneville County tax payers can expect, if they approve a new community college.
8. Why does this idea need our extra tax dollars to make it fly? Even with Governor Otter throwing in $5 million of our tax money, the buildings already being in place, and staff and directors already on the payroll, they still need more? It seems like it is a money pit from the start and may only get costlier to all of us. All the while we really don't need another school with so many in the area already!
Educational opportunity is an important factor in the economic health of a region. Eastern Idaho is bleeding productive millennials to other communities both for educational opportunities and for jobs. Forty-two percent of graduating seniors do not go on to post-secondary education in eastern Idaho due to cost, or perception of or reality of not being “college ready.” Most family wage jobs require a minimum of a post-secondary degree or certificate. The Lab and Lab contractors are experiencing significant loss of technical workforce due to retirements. From a pure economic development perspective, a new community college would create or sustain 900 jobs through college operations and student spending. Nearly $66 million would emerge in economic activity as a result from the new college and taxpayers would receive $5.80 in economic benefit for every $1.00 in cost.
IdaHope spokesmen have previously described the overabundance of educational opportunities already available in Idaho Falls, or within 50 miles. If these are not enough to tempt our local high school seniors to engage in higher education, the addition of a community college is unlikely to do so. What we haven’t mentioned is the simple fact that Idaho State University, built, maintained and operated at taxpayer expense, is already seeing a dropping enrollment rate. In an attempt to prop up those numbers, ISU has lobbied for and won approval for a new Polytechnic Institute to be located at University Place in Idaho Falls, which will already bring in more instructors, and many more opportunities for students, satisfying employer requirements for better-trained employees. There is simply no need for a community college in Idaho Falls.
Let’s discuss for a moment the completely unprovable economic “benefits” of a community college in Idaho Falls. The vast majority of tax payers will see none of those benefits, particularly those on fixed incomes, a population that is rising rapidly across the nation. What will those taxpayers see? A tax increase, with history indicating much greater increases over the coming years. And they’ll see worse traffic and inconvenience in everyday life. We just don’t see how the typical taxpayer gets any personal financial returns of $5.80 cash back to every dollar we are taxed. This seems to us to be some “Ivory Tower” pipe dream.
Every do-gooder in the county seeks to justify ever-increasing educational bonding by claiming potential businesses highly value education. Instead, it appears that potential businesses are being driven out of Idaho Falls by high taxes. (Take a look at both sides of Hitt Road, and guess where the taxes are lower.) With the passage of a community college tax district, now they’ll be driven completely out of the county.
9. Voters need to remember that the residents of Bonneville County already yelled a resounding NO to this idea once. We already have enough opportunities nearby, and many more now online, we don't need another new taxing district!
That was 25 years ago. Voters should be given an opportunity to re-evaluate changing economic and demographic needs. Additionally, College of Western Idaho in Boise has proven the importance of a community college to the health and vibrancy of a region at essentially the same millage rate.
The changing world EITC fails to recognize is that the educational landscape is indeed changing, and it’s changing toward more online learning. There are so many options already available, that transforming EITC into a community college is simply not needed. It is unreasonable to compare our situation with the Boise valley. Even if we had our own community college we would still see local students go to their college just to get out of town for a while. And comparing mil rates? Simply not fair, as the same mil rate in Ada and Canyon Counties is spread over a population or taxpayers that is more than 5 times that of Bonneville County.
And let’s be clear: Ada and Canyon County taxpayers are so thrilled with the “health and vibrancy” their community college provides that they failed to pass a $180 million bond last fall to “fund construction of new facilities for their existing Canyon County campus and their plans for a new Boise campus near the greenbelt”. (http://www.boiseweekly.com/boise/election-results-2016-no-to-cwi-bond-yes-to-hjr-5/Content?oid=3928197)
(And, wow! We haven’t even been told about future tax increases to fund additional campuses of the Bonneville County community college. Who could object to that?)
Voters will vote in May on a measure to create a taxing district to help pay for changing EITC from a technical college to a community college.
If passed taxes would go up about $14 on every $100,000 of property owned.
Again, this is the “starter” rate. Remember that a yearly tax increase for everyone is built into Idaho Statute. History tells us that once started, the college will ask voters to approve much higher taxes. Indeed, taxpayers in Twin Falls County pay over $98 per year per $100,000 of taxable property. That is 7 times the amount quoted to Bonneville County taxpayers. Again, these huge tax increases are being proposed for a facility that is simply not needed.