Under the proposal, Itawamba Community College would receive $

CATEGORY: Legislature

AUTHOR: BOBBY

Under the proposal, Itawamba Community College would receive $3.2 million, which would go toward building a two-story social sciences building on the Fulton campus. The social sciences currently are taught in three buildings.

Northeast’s $3.5 million share of the money would go to expand its Allied Health Complex by constructing a new facility between two existing buildings. The buildings would be connected by a walkway.

Here’s a look at how the Community and Junior College Board plans to divide up a $50 million bond project it is asking the state Legislature to approve:

School Total funds

Coahoma $2.2 million

Co-Lin $2.9 million

East Central $2.4 million

East Mississippi $2.2 million

Hinds $6 million

Holmes $2.6 million

Itawamba $3.2 million

Jones $4.2 million

Meridian $2.9 million

Mississippi Delta $3.1 million

Mississippi Gulf Coast $5.5 million

Northeast Mississippi $3.5 million

Northwest Mississippi $3.6 million

Pearl River $3.1 million

Southwest Mississippi $2.4 million

By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Legislators will grapple with the needs of the state’s ever-growing community college and junior college enrollment as they consider a request to issue $50 million in bonds for new construction on the school’s campuses.

A proposal for new construction at all 15 of Mississippi’s community and junior colleges was presented Tuesday to members of the Senate Finance Committee. The $50 million proposal would split half the money equally among the two-year schools, while dividing the remaining $25 million based on enrollment.

“We’re trying to catch up,” said Olon Ray, director of the state Community and Junior College Board. “I know a lot of other people have needs, but you won’t find a pattern of growth greater than the community colleges’.”

Since 1986, the total enrollment of the 15 state-supported community and junior colleges has climbed from 52,371 to the current number of 81,599, Ray pointed out. He said enrollment has literally increased at the rate of a moderate-sized university each year since 1986.

“It is amazing what the junior colleges do,” said Sen. Ezell Lee, D-Picayune. He said “dollar for dollar” the schools are among the best buys in state government.

Bonded indebtedness concern

Other members of the Senate Finance Committee echoed Lee’s thoughts. But they also expressed concern at the state’s bonded indebtedness. Bonds are issued by the state to pay for items such as new construction. Bond debt is paid off over an extended period of time.

Members of the Finance Committee asked Chairman Hob Bryan, D-Amory, how many bond proposals would come from different state agencies during this legislative session. They also wanted to know how passing additional bond bills this session would affect the state’s bonded indebtedness.

Bryan said that information would be made available to the committee.

He also said after the committee meeting that it might be difficult to fund the entire $50 million community college proposal this year.

The senior colleges also are expected to ask for as much as $50 million for repair and renovations and to continue work on ongoing construction projects. A proposal to provide $40 million to construct two juvenile prisons also is making its way through the legislative process.

These projects come on the heels of concern expressed by various politicians, including Gov. Kirk Fordice, about the state’s growing bonded indebtedness. That bonding indebtedness is currently $1.24 billion, which is an all-time high.

But Charlie Jacobs, former House Ways and Means chairman, said the bonded indebtedness is not nearly as bad as it first appears. Jacobs, who spoke on behalf of the community college proposal, said almost 28 percent of total bonded indebtedness is for economic development bonds that would be paid back by industry and not the state.

For the upcoming budget year, which begins July 1, only 3.6 percent of total state expenditures from the general fund will go toward paying off bonded indebtedness, Jacobs said.

Jacobs added he also took the community college construction proposal to Fordice. Despite Fordice’s previous objections to the state’s growing bonded indebtedness, Jacobs said the governor indicated he might look favorably on the bill if additional constructions projects were not added to it during the legislative process.

Community college proposal

The proposal being pushed by the community and junior colleges would include $3.5 million for Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville and $3.2 million for Itawamba Community College at Fulton.

Under the proposal, ICC would build a two-story social sciences building on the Fulton campus. The social sciences currently are taught in three buildings.

Northeast’s share of the money would go to expand its Allied Health Complex by constructing a new facility between two existing buildings. The buildings would be connected by a walkway.

Sen. Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, questioned whether the community college plan should include construction for all 15 schools instead of divvying the money based solely on need. He pointed out some schools were building new classrooms and dorms while a couple of others were planning such construction as wellness centers and tennis courts.

During the past five years, the state’s community colleges have received a total of $57 million in bonds. But community college officials said most of those bonds were for renovations and repairs and the state has paid for little new construction. During the same period, the eight senior colleges have received about $332 million in bonding authority.

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