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Brazos County Committee Interested In Buying Blinn College’s Bryan Campus

The difference of opinion continues about adding workforce training programs in Brazos County.

That was revealed at an update by the Research Valley Partnership (RVP) talent initiative committee, which is pursuing a community college district for Brazos County that is locally governed.

Committee co-chairman Ivan Olson says they have collected about 5,500 petition signatures towards the effort to submit the proposal to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Brazos County Commission for a future vote. Olson says about 10,000 needs to be certified, and their goal is between 15,000 and 20,000. The committee, which has until the end of December to finish the petition drive, has more information online at brazostalentinitiative.org

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After the RVP update, Blinn officials in Brenham issued a release that stated in part “Blinn College regrets that the Research Valley Partnership has not engaged in a constructive dialogue with the College regarding the future of career training in Brazos County.”

A member of the RVP committee, Bobby Gutierrez of the Bryan Business Council, says Blinn has not responded to four years of requests for additional workforce training in Brazos County.

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Another RVP committee member, College Station mayor Karl Mooney, referred to Brazos County students who can’t drive to Brenham or Blinn’s center in Schulenburg.

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Gutierrez also says Blinn not responding to their requests made the last four years has meant losing new jobs created by entrepreneurs at Texas A&M and it places the RVP at a disadvantage in attracting new employers.

Olson also announced Blinn has been asked to sell the Bryan campus. And Blinn has been asked to allow Texas State Technical College (TSTC) in Waco to investigate a possible branch campus in the twin cities.

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Blinn’s statement following the RVP update did not include a response to the RVP’s interest in TSTC. Blinn, by state law, has to give permission because Brazos County is in Blinn’s service area. Olson says Blinn has not been granted the request.

As for the possible sale of the Bryan campus, Blinn plans to provide financial information in advance of a December 6th deadline to an amended open records request from the city of Bryan.

Blinn’s statement also questions why the RVP wants to add another property tax in Brazos County. While the RVP says a one cent tax might be instituted, Blinn’s statement says Brazos County taxpayers could face a tax rate of 17 and a half cents, which is the statewide average for community colleges. Blinn’s tax rate in Washington County is near the lowest in the state at six cents. That generates less than $2 million dollars of Blinn’s more than $107 million dollar budget.

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News release from the Research Valley Partnership:

The Talent Initiative Steering Executive Committee of The Research Valley Partnership, a public-private economic development corporation serving the citizens of Brazos County, reinforced the need for Brazos County residents to govern themselves when it comes to closing the opportunity gap in education and workforce development.

Updates on the Brazos Talent Initiative’s progress to preserve the right for Brazos County citizens to vote on establishing a new community college district include:

Petition Signatures: Committee members began gathering petition signatures during the November general election that will allow Brazos County commissioners to hold an election. This election gives Brazos County voters the right to be heard on whether a new community college district makes sense for Brazos County. To date, the committee has gathered over 5,000 signatures; approximately 10,000 are necessary to call an election. The committee’s goal is to gather enough signatures in the next 30 days to total 15,000 signatures. Volunteers are circulating the petition at local sporting events and will also attend community holiday events that will be publicized on the Brazos Talent Initiative’s website, www.brazostalentinitiative.org. Several businesses in the community are also hosting the petition so that voters can easily sign it. A list of local businesses, as well as instructions for downloading a petition and dropping it off, are also available on the website. Once the county verifies the signatures, the committee will present the petition to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board [THECB] at its January 2017 meeting. Additionally, the committee will present a feasibility study to the THECB.

Financial Open Records Request: The committee has requested financial records from Blinn College through an Open Records Request as required by Texas law. Blinn had 10 days from the date of that request on November 11. The request is a necessary piece of the committee’s due diligence in exploring all viable options. The committee is awaiting a response.

Feasibility Study: The committee has commissioned the Perryman Group to perform a feasibility study on how best to expand and enhance academic programs and workforce development to meet the demand for high-net, “new collar” jobs. The study, required by THECB, will look at ways to give Brazos County students more access to academic and workforce development programs at a lower cost.

The Executive committee has not wavered in its attempts to explore all viable options to come up with proposals that will best serve the interests of Brazos County residents. The committee has continued to seek facts to base decisions on and to seek resolution to the needs of Brazos County.

“Our goal has always been to do what’s best for Brazos County residents, including our business leaders and our students,” committee co-chair Ivan Olson said. “Brazos County needs to control the academic and workforce development that fits our community; we trust that Brazos County voters know what works for Brazos County.”

News release from Blinn College:

Today, Blinn College learned of a press conference sponsored by the Research Valley Partnership regarding its intent to seek a new community college district in Brazos County. Blinn College regrets that the Research Valley Partnership has not engaged in a constructive dialogue with the College regarding the future of career training in Brazos County. Blinn’s academic transfer, dual credit, and career training programs clearly have established Blinn as one of the finest community colleges in the state and nation, as evidenced by Blinn’s exceptional academic transfer, licensure exam, and placement rates. Blinn College contributes in excess of $247.4 million annually in economic benefit to the Brazos County community.

“Blinn officials struggle to understand why the RVP would want Brazos County taxpayers to add to their existing tax burden to replace an exceptional product that is being offered tax-free,” said Mel Waxler, Executive Vice President and General Counsel.

A new taxing district’s rate may start at one or two pennies, but could quickly grow in line with the average Texas community college property tax rate of 17.5 cents, which would cost taxpayers more than $260 each year on a $100,000 home.

Blinn College’s workforce training programs utilize feedback from local employers continually to ensure that curricula exceed industry standards. Blinn won the Texas Workforce Investment Council Promising Practice Award for the use of employer surveys to determine satisfaction with Blinn graduates and their training competencies. Blinn’s workforce training job placement rate three-year average exceeds 90%, demonstrating Blinn’s exceptional history of providing Brazos County businesses the highly skilled employees they need to thrive in today’s economy.

Contrary to what the RVP asserted in its press release, Blinn College has not received an open records request from the Research Valley Partnership. Blinn has received a request from Mr. Kean Register with the City of Bryan, initially submitted Nov. 11, then amended on Nov. 17. Blinn College has until Dec. 6 to provide the requested data, and expects to provide that information as requested in advance of the deadline.

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Posted by on Nov 30 2016. Filed under Featured Stories, News.

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