MACC taxing district smallest in state despite large service area

Despite having one of the largest service areas of any community college in the state, Moberly Area Community College has the smallest taxing district out of the 12 community colleges. 

MACC serves a 16-county area, including Randolph, Boone, Audrain and Macon counties. The college has six campuses located in its service are including: Moberly, Mexico, Columbia, Hannibal, Kirksville and Macon. While MACC serves such a large area of the state, it only receives property tax funding from a taxing district in Moberly. 

Students living in Moberly have a reduced tuition cost compared to those living out-of-district, even those who live near another MACC campus across the state. Tuition for on-site general education courses is $91 per credit hour for MACC district residents, compared to $153 per credit hour for non-district Missouri residents. 

Local property taxes only made up approximately two percent of MACC’s operating and non-operating revenue in 2018, while state aid made up about 20.4 and gifts and grants made up approximately 29.9 percent. Tuition was MACC’s largest source of operating revenue in 2018 at approximately 70 percent, MACC President Jeff Lashley said. Even auxiliary expenses, such as bookstore sales, brought in more revenue, at 7.3 percent, than local property taxes.

MACC’s small taxing district is partially attributed to its age, MACC President Jeff Lashley said. When the college was established in 1927, there was not as much of a regional focus as there is now, he said. More recent community colleges were established with larger taxing districts, because they were expected to serve students from a wider area.

There aren’t any plans to expand the taxing district in the near future, but the possibility remains open. Expanding the district beyond Moberly would require voter approval in each of the other communities. An expansion would be beneficial, because the stagnation or decrease of state funding for higher education has made other revenue streams like local property taxes even more valuable, Lashley said.

“In an ideal situation, that tax support is higher,” he said. 

A community college with an expanded tax district will lose out on higher tuition revenue from out-of-district students. The lower cost to students and a steadier stream of revenue from local property taxes are a positive for community colleges, Missouri Community College Association President and Chief Executive Officer Brian Millner said. 

“Most likely, any school district that passed a ballot measure to be within the taxing district would probably be a net positive to the college in any district,” Millner said.

Ozarks Technical Community College is the only community college in the state to expand its taxing district in recent years. Hollister voters in 2010 approved the expansion of the OTCC taxing district into the town. The taxing district was expanded into Branson by voter approval in 2015. 

Local property taxes make up approximately 20 percent of OTCC’s revenue each year. 

The expansion of taxing districts allows community colleges to better respond to community needs, OTCC Director of Communications and Marketing Mark Miller said.

“It adds an ability for us, as a community college, to better plan what programs we’re going to give to respond to the needs of that community,” Miller said. “When a community says, ‘We want to join your taking district; we’re going to commit some property tax to your college,’ then they have some skin in the game. In a lot of cases, we’ll build a campus in that community.”

When OTCC first began in Hollister and Branson, it mostly offered general education courses, but eventually more programs like health and technical education formed in those areas because of the larger revenue and more stable revenue pool, Miller.

“It’s definitely a net benefit for the college to have that steady revenue,” Miller said. “Tuition can fluctuate on enrollment, and a lot of that is tied to the economy and high school graduation rates. State revenue can fluctuate… but the property tax revenue is pretty steady.”

Expansion has to be approved by voters in that district. While community colleges can put a tax on the ballot, it is ultimately better to receive support from the community before trying to implement an additional property tax in a community, Miller said. Community colleges cannot run a campaign in support of a tax as public entities. Local agencies like the city council, chamber of commerce and economic development helped campaign for an OTCC taxing district expansion, Miller said.

MACC would likely entertain the idea of expanding the district if presented the opportunity, Lashley said. 

“If a community within our service region decided that they wanted to come into our taxing district, then of course we would always be interested in having a conversation with them,” Lashley said.

ecliburn@moberlymonitor.com