Board of trustees unable to compromise on bond projects

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A special board meeting is to be scheduled in early January to discuss CIP recommendations.

By Zachary-Taylor Wright

The board of trustees was unable to agree on the allocation of $450 million in bond funds for construction and maintenance across the district in a Capital Improvement Program discussion at the Dec. 13 regular board meeting.

The board appointed a Citizens Capital Improvement Plan Committee during a special board meeting and Capital Improvement Program retreat June 29 and charged the citizens advisory committee with reviewing the board’s projects list and recommending changes.

Chancellor Bruce Leslie gave a presentation with his recommendations to the citizens advisory committee’s proposal, which several of the board members took issue with.

The adjustments reduced the citizen committee’s recommended $23 million to the Southside Education and Training Center to $17 million and increased the Interstate 10 West Education and Training Center to $27 million from the recommended $23 million.

According to the presentation, the increase in funds to the I-10 West facility is intended to accommodate the higher infrastructure and the $5 million need to construct on the difficult terrain at the location.

District 3 trustee Anna Bustamante expressed frustration with the reallocation of funds from the Southside center back into the Interstate 10 regional center.

“”We were ignored in the previous CIP, and now we’re being ignored again,” Bustamante said.

District 1 trustee Joe Alderete questioned the $5 million allocated to purchasing real estate along U.S. Route 281 because he does not think a campus in that area will serve the community.

“These folks are people who will either be attending an existing community college or a four-year university,” Alderete said. “Take that money and move it to the South Side because you know, they know and everyone on this board knows the biggest hindrance to education is poverty.”

District 8 trustee Clint Kingsbery rebutted Alderete’s statements, saying not every person who lives in District 8 is a “well-to-do” person who is capable of attending a four-year college or traveling to an existing community college.

However, Kingsbery said the Northside did have enough money allocated to it in the citizens advisory committee recommendations, but he could not condone Alderete’s statements about the financial nature of District 8’s constituents.

District 2 trustee Denver McClendon said the board is a deliberative body driven by data and the board needs more time to discuss the recommendations provided by the citizens advisory committee.

McClendon, District 5 trustee Roberto Zarate and District 9 trustee James Rindfuss suggested the board have a retreat to discuss the citizens advisory committee’s recommendations and have more in-depth data about fund allocations presented.

Despite the board’s inability to agree, District 4 trustee Marcelo Casillas motioned to accept the committee’s recommendations without the chancellor’s adjustments.

The vote was met with opposition from Zarate and Yvonne Katz, District 7 trustee and board chair, but the motion was supported by Alderete and Bustamante.

As Casillas’ motion to vote remained on the floor, Zarate said a vote on the Capital Improvement Program would be premature at the Dec. 13 meeting and reiterated his desire to have a retreat to discuss the topic.

Katz said she was confused by the presentation and was unable to determine which numbers were new and felt uncomfortable holding a vote.

“We need some time to work together,” Katz said. “I don’t want to see us come up with a vote right now that would show more people saying ‘no’ than saying ‘yes.’”

Kingsbery said the board should consider voting in favor of the citizens advisory committee’s recommendations because of the lack of community support for the board after this college and St. Philip’s and Northwest Vista colleges were placed on an accreditation “warning” list.

Kingsbery said pushing a bond issue that went against the citizens advisory committee’s recommendations could cause negative media attention and further separate them from the community.

Casillas’s motion to vote had remained on the floor and a vote was taken; Casillas, Bustamante, Alderete and Kingsbery voted in favor of accepting the Citizens Capital Improvement Program Committee’s recommendations without the chancellor’s adjustments.

All other board members voted against the motion and it was agreed a Capital Improvement Program retreat would be scheduled in early January.

Alderete said the process for determining the allocation of funds was flawed because the board did not inform the citizens advisory committee what would happen to their recommendations after they presented them to the board Dec. 6.

Alderete said the board should have informed the committee that their recommendations could be ignored or altered.


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