Barbers Hill Independent School District Superintendent Greg Poole said taxes, local control, and choice are the key issues driving his efforts to align Barbers Hill ISD with Lone Star College. Dr. Poole has used the Lee College tax rate as justification for looking beyond Lee College for community college services for BHISD residents.
Dr. Poole has avoided some very important information that, if presented, shows a very different picture of the actual choice opportunities BHISD faces.
Let’s look at taxes. BHISD residents currently enjoy access to all Lee College services mandated by the State of Texas with no tax burden as BHISD is outside our taxing area. Further, the revenue generated from Lee College taxes currently helps keep the tuition expense of all of our neighboring districts at a low level. We at Lee College think affordable education is important for students in our entire service area to the extent that approximately 1/3 of our tax dollars are consumed by services provided to students from non-tax districts like Barbers Hill.
Dr. Poole gladly accepts the subsidy that his students receive from our generous taxpayers, but criticizes the rate required to provide that subsidy.
Lee College is pleased that Dr. Poole understands alignment with an existing community college district is good for the long-term educational health of the BHISD area. Lee College agrees and has made the effort in private talks to do just that over the last several years.
So let’s consider the tax rate and what it would look like if a BHISD combination with Lee College took place compared to Lone Star College. The Lee College tax rate when the Barbers Hill tax base is included would drop to 14.4 cents compared to the 10.7 cent Lone Star rate. But to complete the picture you have to consider the homestead exemption Lee College offers that is 8 times the value of the Lone Star exemption. That makes the tax burden on a $200,000 home in Barbers Hill essentially the same when both factors are calculated comparing both college districts, a vastly different picture from that Dr. Poole has portrayed.
Dr. Poole declined to acknowledge a Lee College offer of an alternative special tax arrangement with BHISD, capped at 5 cents, that would allow Lee College to construct and operate a facility within the BHISD district, something the community desires. Dr. Poole said “no” to this proposed idea.
Rather, he has pursued a drastic step of changing state law to allow a Houston area college district to hop around the state to annex BHISD area that is not even adjacent to its district.
If taxes are not the reason, it cannot be poor service as Dr. Poole has always praised the services provided by Lee College. Perhaps it’s control.
Any combination with Lee College’s tax district would allow granting Barbers Hill seats on our governing board, influence and control that cannot be offered by Lone Star College as their board has nine seats covering a population of 2.1 million and growing. That will dwarf any influence BHISD could ever hope to have with a population of just over 16,500 just 7/10th of 1% of the Lone Star population. BHISD would never have votes to gain a seat on that Board.
Choice is good, but that makes having accurate information essential. Control, taxes and services; we at Lee College offer Barbers Hill a clearly superior opportunity should they choose to align with a community college.
When can we meet?
Mark Hall, Gilbert Santana and Dr. Keith Coburn are Lee College regents.