June 29, 2013 8:50:25 PM
Carl Smith - [email protected]
East Mississippi Community College President Rick Young said Friday he's received verbal commitments from Clay and Kemper counties' representatives to help fund a two-phase, $34 million expansion project.
Securing similar commitments from four other area counties is crucial to moving forward with the project, he told officials Friday in Macon, as interest rates could change, resulting in higher debt service payments.
EMCC officials say future industrial development in the Golden Triangle will push their student enrollment and workforce training programs to unprecedented levels. In order to meet the challenges of tomorrow, Young says expansion projects must happen today.
Officials are currently in the fund-procuring stage for two new facilities - a student housing complex for its Scooba campus and a Golden Triangle campus student union with classroom space. The school is expected to expand its Allied Health program with the additional classroom space and provide a living area in Scooba where lower capacity turns away potential residents.
Other expansion projects could follow in the future. Officials told Oktibbeha County supervisors Monday that a dormitory project for its Golden Triangle Campus could follow by 2018 to handle the predicted student influx.
EMCC is seeking financial contributions from six counties - Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Clay, Noxubee, Kemper and Lauderdale - based upon how many students from each county were enrolled in the 2011-2012 school year. In that year, the Golden Triangle - Lowndes (47 percent), Oktibbeha (24 percent) and Clay (13 percent) - enrolled the lion's share of students, while the remaining three counties' students represented a combined 16 percent of the student body.
Young is in the process of approaching governing bodies with two, 3-percent interest funding options which spread 15-year and 20-year payments across the six counties.
The 15-year plan would raise the total repayment to about $39.3 million. Lowndes County would contribute $892,120 per year under this option, while Oktibbeha ($455,551) and Clay ($246,757) counties would together chip in about $700,000.
The 20-year plan increases total repayment to about $42.1 million, but would drive down each county's annual contribution. In this debt service scheme, Lowndes County would contribute $649,007 annually, while Oktibbeha's ($331,403) and Clay's ($179,513) yearly combined contribution decreased to just more than $500,000.
EMCC would be the project's chief financial backer, spending either $13.71 million or $17.34 million annually depending on which payment plan is approved. In addition to the almost $3 million in state bond funds the school has available, EMCC would also contribute $750,000 annually in both plans.
The six counties contributed a combined $2.89 million through local maintenance and capital improvement millages to EMCC's $54.33 million 2011-2012 budget. Measured by each county's number of students, awarded institutional scholarships, number of employees, salaries, fringe benefits and payments to vendors, an EMCC report calculates the school's total investment in those same six counties at $44.73 million.
"The real return (on investment) is on the students," Young said.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch