SYRACUSE – State Sen. Dan Watermeier offered his opposition to a bond issue for Southeast Community College that will go before voters on Nov. 8.
The senator from Syracuse questioned the bond issue’s “wish list” approach to facility improvements and the strategic plan’s commitment to technical training.
Watermeier said the $369 million bond issue may result in directions for the community college that are not focused on hands-on, technical training for jobs that are currently in demand.
He said partnerships between employers and educators can provide cost-effective training.
He also said the $369 million bond issue would amount to $523 million tax obligation when interest is figured in.
Watermeier: “This bond proposal appears to be an all-inclusive wish list. I believe Southeast Nebraska would be better served if SCC focused less on building new buildings and more on working with area high schools and the private sector to expand their successful technical programs.”
Here is his opinion article dated Oct. 21.
“I am a strong supporter of the community college system in Nebraska. My father served on the Southeast Community College Board of Governor’s for 15 years. I am well aware of the important role that a community college plays in preparing students for their future career goals. While I recognize this important role for community colleges, I can NOT support the proposed $369 million bond issue.
First, I fear the proposal loses sight of the primary purpose of community colleges, which is to give students the opportunity to receive appropriate, hands-on training for the growing number of technical jobs that go unfilled in our state. Recently, Greg Adams, former Speaker of the Legislature and past chairman of the Education Committee, spoke about a workforce imbalance that is facing Nebraska. He noted that we have far too few employees qualified to do jobs that require associate degrees and not enough jobs for our residents that have earned bachelor’s degrees.
I feel that this bond proposal loses sight of what is actually needed in our state. I have had several businesses tell a similar story in that they can get 40 applicants to fill a 4-year degree position and get only 2 applicants to fill a technical position.
Is the SCC board and leadership team overlooking what Nebraska industry has been discussing for the last few years?
I am also concerned the SCC Board has not explored all options for developing a strategy to meet workforce training needs. Has SCC reached out to local schools and other entities about utilizing existing public facilities to achieve its goal? The Milford campus has a history of a very productive and appropriate private/public partnership with the John Deere program.
This joint venture puts a vested interest in the hands of the private sector to develop exactly what it needs. Have additional options been researched?
In my opinion, the focus of SCC should be on hands-on training and should look into alternative ways to meet the needs of Nebraska’s economy in order to keep it growing and competitive.
I think the proposal goes too far. The $369 million bond proposal amounts to an estimated $523 million increase in property taxes when including interest over the life of the bonds. This is more than half of a BILLION dollars. Increasing the current levy for SCC by over 50% is asking too much from all property taxpayers. It begs the question, is this the best use of half of a billion dollars to reduce the shortage in the workforce?
The Appropriations Committee, on which I serve, must analyze every budget request, making difficult decisions in our efforts to control spending. This bond proposal appears to be an all-inclusive wish list.
I believe Southeast Nebraska would be better served if SCC focused less on building new buildings and more on working with area high schools and the private sector to expand their successful technical programs.”
Senator Dan Watermeier
Legislative District #1