Despite Tax Freeze, Seniors Will Be Hit With TJC Tax Hike

Taxes are jumping more than 30 percent for those who pay for Tyler Junior College, and a few East Texans are not happy about it.

Just one person showed up for a public hearing before the Board of Trustees approved the tax hike. Now that man says he's trying to tell everyone the college is asking for too much money from those who can least afford it.

Petition in hand, Dr. Don Haygood says the tax hike is bad medicine.

"I've been out this morning getting signatures and if people are not yet aware of the issue, they're sort of shocked," he says.

The TJC board approved the tax hike for the next fiscal year: up 32.7 percent, from 12.2 cents to 16.2 per $100 of property value. For a $50,000 home, that means $20 more per year, and double that for a $100,000 home.

Haygood and his son, Ken say it's too much for a campus that looks this good.

"If you're coming to me for a 40 percent tax increase, you had better tell me what it's for, not just 'general needs,'" Ken says.

Dr. William Crowe, TJC President: "We want to avoid getting like so many public entities -- getting to where the number gets so big that you have to float these big bond initiatives."

The total tax hike is nearly 40 percent, when you see that rising home values have shot up nearly six percent just this year.

Don Haygood: "I think it's grossly unfair to our senior citizens and it's taking advantage of them."

Texans voted to let TJC and other entities freeze seniors taxes. The college will this year, at the higher rate.

"Suddenly, right before the freeze goes into effect for seniors, they're raising their taxes 40 percent this year so they'll be locked in at super high rates," Ken says.

Dr. Crowe says timing wasn't even considered -- that there is no hidden motive.

"That [revenue] number whether seniors are in there are not, is not a big enough number to make a difference in whether you [raise taxes] now or later."

Reporter: "So it was not discussed?"  Crowe:  "No, it was not."

The Haygoods are hoping for 9,000 people to petition with them to get the tax hike on a ballot this year. TJC wants to use the new tax money for a new classroom facility, an expanded student center and other buildings that together could cost as much as a hundred million dollars over the next ten years.

President Crowe says issuing bonds for those buildings would end up costing taxpayers double over the next three decades. The college's tax district encompasses parts of northern Smith and western Van Zandt counties.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.