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OTC levy increase passes

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Ozarks Technical Community College is one step closer to its goal of having a consolidated campus. The college's ballot issue, a five-cent increase in the operating tax levy, passed with a 51.13 percent majority in the 14 school districts that comprise the college's district.

Though the measure failed in some districts, it passed in Christian and Greene counties, which together with Webster County make up about 99 percent of the votes in the college's district, said Brian King, dean of institutional development for the college. The measure received only about 45 percent of the yes vote in Webster County, but the majorities in Greene and Christian were enough to pull the vote through, King said.

The money raised from this property tax increase will fund a new building at OTC and improvements to the former Lincoln School, now renamed Lincoln Hall.

The college has already received a $3 million state grant for the construction of a new 75,000-square-foot job training center. That grant money could be reallocated elsewhere in the state if the college did not raise a match for it. The match will come from the property tax increase.

The total cost of the new building will be about $8 million, King said, and the $3 million will "give us a good start on that." The college also plans to spend $2 million to $3 million to renovate Lincoln Hall.

The levy increase is to sunset after 20 years. Though the college was not required to place a sunset on the tax, it decided that to do so would be in the community's best interest, King said. Over the 20-year period, the tax increase will generate about $20 million.

About $8 million to $11 million of that will be used for the capital projects for Lincoln Hall and the new building, and the remainder will be used for maintenance and paying the interest on bonds that will be secured for the capital projects, King said.

The college will also conduct a study to determine whether it needs a satellite location outside Springfield. That study will probably cost $10,000 to $50,000, depending on its scope and range, King said.

Some of the programs that are now not on campus, such as the allied health care program, will move to OTC's main campus as a result of the new building, King said. The adult education and continuing education programs will also become part of campus.

The college's board will begin to consider bond financing for the up-front costs of the new building and renovations to Lincoln Hall pretty soon, King said.

"Since we were counting on a win, a lot of the groundwork has been laid," King said.

The board will begin to look at the particulars of the projects in its upcoming meetings.

Many companies in Springfield have used OTC's job training program for cooperative programs with their own employees.

Springfield ReManufacturing, Positronic Industries and, recently, First Card, have made agreements with OTC to use its programs and facilities for job training.

Since the college opened in 1991, its enrollment has gone from 1,198 students for the fall of 1991 to 5,129 for the fall of 1997. Enrollment is expected to continue to rise.

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