It's hard to pass up a great deal. Anyway you cut it, the proposed Columbia Gorge Community College annexation is a great deal for Hood River County. The issue deserves local support when it appers on the Nov. 6 mail-in ballot.
The education benefits are obvious: more local college-level and basic skill classes, accelerated learning courses for high school students, unlimited curriculum opportunities, affordable tuition, more available financial aid and Hood River County education centers. Educational opportunities will be enhanced across the board. Right now, about 1,500 folks calling Hood River County home will be attending college classes. In an area like Hood River, that means every one of us will know someone who will directly benefit from the annexation's approval.
The financial beneifits will be spread throughout the community, whether or not you're a college student. The amount of state reimbursement alone will increase from $47,000 to $1.2 million. Hood River County is home to Oregon's largest population area that is not part of a community college district, and we're missing out on those tax dollars and the prospects they help create.
That leads to greater economic development benefits. Community college annexation will enhance opportunities for local workers and employers. It will provide professional and technical training plus small business development services. Annexation may pave the way for the creation of a local technology center, improving Hood River County's ability to compete in a business climate that is ever more high-tech reliant.
The best way to judge a great deal is by looking at the bottom line. The local annexation investment will be 27 cents per $1,000 assessed property value -- or $27 a year for a $100,000 home. That rate will generate an estimated $263,000 in local property taxes that will be used to leverage $1.2 million from the state. Hood River County residents will not be asked to pay for prior Columbia Gorge Community College bonded debt, and that new state money will be used directly to upgrade local educational opportunities. Add all this together and a great deal emerges for Hood River County.
The tangible effects are clear and positive. The intangible benefits of a better-educated population, increased cultural activities and improved quality of life will become more apparent when the expanded community college district begins this summer.
Columbia Gorge Community College annexation will benefit Hood River County on so many levels. It will improve education, encourage economic development and enhance our lifestyle. This is a great deal that deserves our support, and our "yes" vote Nov. 6 ballot.