A couple of medical professionals weighed in on Tyler Junior College’s $25 million bond proposal during a town hall meeting Tuesday.
Two Tyler physicians endorsed the proposal, citing the growing health care industry and the constant need for competent medical professionals.
“The hospital would not run without TJC graduates,” Dr. Royal Becker, an internist and hospitalist at Mother Frances Hospital, said. “The hospital would grind to a halt.”
Vascular surgeon Todd Bengston said TJC graduates have worked alongside him throughout his professional life in Tyler and their quality as professionals has been excellent.
He said the health care industry will continue to grow as new people move into the area and live longer.
He said it’s much better for this need to be met by people who were trained here. As someone who has worked with TJC and seen its facilities, he said they are small, cramped and on separate campuses.
“I think this is an easy bond issue,” he said. “I think there’s no question there’s a need.”
The doctors spoke to about 40 people during the town hall meeting at the Family Learning Center at Tyler ISD’s Douglas Elementary School. A majority of those in attendance were TJC administrators, faculty or staff.
Although the estimated cost for the project is $50 million, the college plans to fund half of it with the bond money and the other half with student user fees and private donor support.
TJC has about $20 million in collected student fees and private donor pledges toward its $25 million goal.
College officials have said the existing health care facilities, which are house at TJC’s main and west campuses, are outdated and undersized for the needs.
College President Dr. Mike Metke said TJC’s health-related programs have outgrown the existing space with the college placing programs at satellite campuses in Jacksonville, Rusk and Lindale to meet the demand.
“Our best facilities are off (the main) campus,” Metke said adding that the college already has been informed its dental hygiene facility will not meet accreditation standards for the next review.
A new facility also would reduce the pressure on the clinical sites where students get experience in the hospitals.
Metke said with more technology students would be able to participate in simulated exercises that could decrease the amount of time they need to spend in clinicals.
Metke said Tyler is a medical destination and will continue to be as the aging population grows. Health care is a $3.1 billion industry in East Texas with about 25,000 jobs in the Tyler area.
Metke said the proposal falls in line with the city’s Industry Growth Initiative, which aims to spotlight Tyler’s place as destination for medical services, among other key areas.
“The plan would help Tyler in its vision to become a medical destination …” he said. “Our proposal would help us fill those jobs with people from here.”
The estimated tax rate impact ranges from just under 1.5 cents per $100 valuation to more than 2 cents per $100 valuation depending upon the bond’s maturity date. The college’s estimates go from 15 to 30 years in five-year increments.
If the college went with a 15-year amortization, the owner of a $100,000 home would see a tax rate increase of more than $21 annually and $1.78 per month.
The owner of a $100,000 pays $182.20 in TJC property taxes under the current tax rate, which is 18.22 cents per $100 valuation.
The average home value in the TJC tax district was $126,221 as of July 2011. The tax rates estimates are subject to change with interest rates.
The facility would be built on the TJC property east of Fleishel Avenue and north of Fifth Street to the west of the existing main campus.
Board President Clint Roxburgh said the creek that runs through that area would not be an issue for the building as TJC already has built in similar areas and worked around it.
Board member David Hudson said trustees are all very proud of the opportunity to have this bond proposal and what it means for the community.
“We need this facility for what it’s going to do for Tyler,” he said.
Metke and Roxburgh emphasized that the plan is in the hands of the taxpayers now.
“This is a taxpayer issue,” Roxburgh said. “If the taxpayers don’t want it, it’s not going to happen.”