Southeast Community College is phasing-in campus improvements without seeking ballot approval after voters soundly rejected a $369-million bond issue last fall.
SCC President Paul Illich says the focus now is a plan that totals about $60-million for improvements at the Beatrice, Milford and Lincoln campuses, partly paid for using the school’s capital construction levy.
“You can use a portion of your two cents to leverage that and to do a financing that you pay back with that,” Illich says. “For example, if we use half a cent, you could probably, depending on the financial conditions, finance somewhere between $45- and 50-million, depending on the market conditions at the time.”
SCC currently has a 1.05-cent capital levy, but can levy up to 2-cents. SCC officials are also examining the use of public-private partnerships to build new dormitory facilities.
Illich says the college’s architectural consultant says there is a need to modernize campuses to remain competitive with other community colleges that have already undertaken facility upgrades.
“It’s not just about losing enrollment, it’s about losing opportunity,” Illich says. “For the local community, losing that opportunity to have access to affordable higher education, to produce enough career and technical workers. We’ve got a crisis in Nebraska. We have a major gap between the amount of skilled workers we need and what we’re actually producing.”
Illich feels the public backs the community college, despite the vote outcome last fall.
“The bond not passing didn’t mean SCC’s not modernizing,” he says. “I think they’ll be very excited. They recognize the need. We heard over and over again, ‘It’s not that we don’t recognize the need to modernize, we definitely think you do, it’s just the amount.’ I think the public will be very supportive.”
A new 68,000 square foot multipurpose classroom building is the top priority for the Beatrice Campus. It would eventually replace Jackson Hall. On the Milford Campus, a new 40,000 square foot multipurpose classroom building and a new facility for the diesel technology program are top priorities. On the Lincoln Campus, a new 61,000 square foot Health Sciences Building and new campus housing are the top priorities.,
The projects will need the approval of the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education, plus the college board will have to pass a formal resolution, committing some or all of the college’s capital levy to the academic and vocational training facility projects.
By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice