An aerial view of the new OTC Republic Center
Voters in Camdenton will decide June 2 if they want to raise property taxes to join the district for Ozarks Technical Community College.
If approved, it will expand OTC’s footprint to serve the Lake of the Ozarks region.
OTC Chancellor Hal Higdon said the election date was pushed from April 7 to June 2 — because of the coronavirus pandemic — but the college remains prepared to respond if the initiative is approved.
“Nothing changes,” he said. “… It is full speed ahead.”
The Springfield-based college agreed to build a comprehensive, free-standing campus — at a cost of up to $20 million — inside the Camdenton school district, near Lake of the Ozarks, if Camdendon becomes part of the OTC taxing district.
To join that district, Camdenton voters must approve a tax levy of 20 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, or $40 a year on a house valued at $100,000.
Talks between OTC and city, county, school, and business leaders in Camdenton started more than a year ago. Local leaders near Lake of the Ozarks are leading the campaign to bring OTC to the area.
Earlier this year, Higdon repeatedly made trips to Camdenton to meet with community groups, provide information and answer questions.
He said the pandemic has put an end to in-person visits to the area for now but he has remained available by phone and video-conferencing.
The ballot measure has been strongly opposed by State Fair Community College, which has served the Lake of the Ozarks region for 36 years without seeking a tax.
Joanna Anderson, president of the Sedalia-based college, wrote a letter to the editor of the News-Leader this week that outlines how the institution has worked with business owners, entrepreneurs and families to offer classes and other resources.
She noted that through a $1.4 million grant, Camdenton and Eldon students are able to spend time on campus, learning what is available through higher education.
“As you can see, State Fair Community College has invested a great deal of time, talent and treasure in the lake area over the past 36 years,” she wrote. “We hope to continue building that relationship in the future.”
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Higdon said if the ballot measure passes, Camdenton residents enrolled at OTC will be able to pay the in-district tuition rate starting this summer. Due to the pandemic, all of the college’s courses are online this summer.
In addition to the general education courses required for a two-year degree, OTC plans to start technical and allied health programs based on the workforce needs identified by local businesses and industries.
So far, college officials have noted interest in HVAC, construction, marine maintenance, and a range of medical programs including nursing.
The college predicts it will serve an average of 800 students annually by its third year.
Higdon said the pandemic may have an impact on that timeline. He said the campus will be built with an eye toward expansion.
“My guess is we’ll hit 800 a lot sooner than we expected,” he said. “That is why we’d be looking at (buying) 10 to 20 acres.”
Claudette Riley is the education reporter for the News-Leader. Email news tips to email@example.com and consider supporting vital local journalism by subscribing. Learn more by visiting News-Leader.com/subscribe.
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