Here's Jerry Williams' latest email to supporters of Rochester's local option sales tax:
Friends, Colleagues and Fellow Citizens:
While reading some material on leadership the other day, I was reminded of a statement I saw some years ago: “A business [or also in this case a community] without a vision, has no future”…..or at least a very limited one. In other words, I view this ½ cent sales tax renewal initiative as one way in which this community lays out for the next several years its vision about what it wants some areas of its future to look like. So instead of sitting back and letting the future happen to it, the community is making a bold statement about moving forward, continuing the successful momentum derived from past local sales tax projects.
One way it has done that in the past and seeks to continue to do so in the future is in the area of education. Through past uses of the local sales tax, the community has made investments of over $28 million in higher education together at RCTC and UMR. There is no question that the $11.3 million of that amount to bring the University of Minnesota here was money well spent. This is a first-class health careers facility that has become a model of teaching and learning as well as local partnerships to advance its mission.
Enrollment this September in the undergraduate program is expected to be 525 students, and the economic impact is significant. For every 100 students, that’s a $2.5 million boost to our economy. The $14 million requested in this vote will be broken down into $10 million, which will be leveraged with other funds to construct an estimated $60 million core academic facility in the Broadway and First Avenue Southwest area and $4 million that will be used through public/private partnerships to construct additional support facilities to further UMR’s growth.
Another area that I’m very pleased is included is the addition of a Career and Technical Education Center (C-TECH) onto the Heintz Center at the University Center Rochester campus. This $6.5 million facility will provide a location for 10 – 12 grade students to begin to engage in hands-on vocational technical classes that conclude in licensing opportunities and entrance into the workforce. I’ve said to many groups: “As a forty-one year educator, I believe that every student who graduates from high school should go on to a post-high school education program, but not every student who graduates from high school needs to go into a baccalaureate degree program.”
C-TECH will provide a workforce-readiness program for those students who want this type of training. I also believe it will keep a lot of students from dropping out, give many of them a real purpose for going to school, provide great job potential and significantly delay the need for a fourth public senior high school in our community. Also enticing is that this facility is paid for with sales tax dollars rather than being put onto school property taxes. It’s a great educational opportunity to offer to an important part of our student population, and we can continue our commitment to education.
Other comments/questions that occasionally come to me:
· The total cost is too big. Well, we’re a big city that is getting bigger, and we have increasing needs. In the early 80’s when the local sales tax was initiated for flood control work, the population was about 58,000. The 2010 census has us at 106,769, and I’m sure it’s even larger now.
· The list of projects is too broad. Big cities and those that are getting bigger and want to have a strong quality of life have broad needs. We can’t just sit back, do nothing and pretend those needs don’t exist. That’s a head-in-the-sand mentality, which some espouse, and is not a vision for our future.
For more information, check out the website: www.commoncentsrochestermn.com . Spread the word, feel free to forward this email to others, and ask them to support this effort by voting ‘yes.’
I’ll be back in a few weeks with another message and remember, It’s Common Cents! Please Vote Yes!