Voters in Ada and Canyon counties should vote “yes” on Nov. 6 in favor of a $39 million plant facilities levy to build a new, 105,000-square-foot health science building on the Nampa campus.
The cost to taxpayers is estimated to be $8.42 per $100,000 of taxable property value per year over the 10 years of the levy, not a terrible burden. Combined with a promise of $10 million from the Legislature, that will allow the fast-growing college to build the facility that would enable it to increase its capacity by an additional 2,500 students annually studying health and sciences.
For a community college charged with meeting the workforce needs of the Treasure Valley, this building makes all the sense in the world. Health care is one of the fastest-growing fields and is only expected to grow. This project represents just a fraction of what the college had asked for two years ago, when a $180 million bond for multiple buildings in Ada and Canyon counties was shot down by voters in November 2016.
We are in favor of attempts to reduce the short-term lease costs that the college currently incurs by leasing out classroom space all over the valley. We’re also in favor of consolidating all of the college in one location in its current location in Nampa, which is increasingly becoming the center of the valley and where land is plentiful for new buildings. We support building the health science building on the Nampa campus.
We understand the difference between the attempt at a levy as opposed to the previous attempt for a bond. If the levy is approved, the college would need to get a construction loan, whose terms likely would not be as favorable as those associated with a bond. But the threshold for approval of a levy drops down to 55 percent, compared with 66.7 percent for a bond.
We are concerned that the college has not been able to secure some partnership funding from the valley’s health care providers who would ultimately benefit from an influx of newly graduated students ready to work. College officials said the valley’s hospitals have been asked to participate in other ways, such as training and faculty once the building is open.
We’re also hesitant about the college’s insistence on keeping student costs flat for the past five years. Yes, part of the mission of the community college is to keep its education affordable. But certainly the costs of goods and services have increased over the past five years, and students have not been asked to participate in those increases. Further, without raising fees or tuition, the college is also not asking its students to participate in the construction of the building.
Those drawbacks, though, are not enough for us to vote “no” on the levy.
The bottom line for us is that this is a need — not a want — and the college has limited options for fulfilling this need. The state doesn’t have a good mechanism for funding these projects, aside from the limited Permanent Building Fund, which has already shot down the college in the past for such funding. We also support this levy because this will be a benefit the entire Treasure Valley, producing qualified health care workers to local residents and providing a bona fide opportunity for our local high school students to go on to higher education with the promise of a well-paying job.
In the end, a new health science building on the CWI campus in Nampa is a good deal that will benefit the community and the local economy, and it deserves your support.