JCTC Carrollton campus must be funded this year

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As Carroll County Judge-Executive Harold “Shorty” Tomlinson said Tuesday, “so far, so good.”

Funding for the new Jefferson Community and Techinal College campus in Carrollton has cleared hurdle, after hurdle this year.

Gov. Steve Beshear included the project in his budget as part of a plan to invest in community colleges because they help put Kentuckians to work.

The $16.3 million project then cleared the House of Representatives budget process. On Monday, it cleared yet another hurdle as it was funded in the state Senate’s version of the budget.

Now it moves to a conference committee made up of members of the House and Senate who must iron out differences between the two versions of the budget. This is another hurdle the project must clear — a risky one where much of the work is performed behind the scenes, and often late at night behind closed doors, in Frankfort at the General Assembly.

This project is long-overdue to win state funding.

The JCTC Campus on Main Street is simply out of space — there’s barely room for the students the school serves in the three-story structure. There’s not enough room for all of the equipment needed — college officials must shuttle items back and forth between Carrollton and storage in Louisville because of the space limitations.

A new campus will provide students with the space they need to train for jobs that are here in Carroll County and throughout the region.

Area industries, such as Dow Corning, North American Stainless, Kentucky Utilities, Gallatin Steel and PMC Organometallix depend on the college to train their workers. Several of these industries have increased needs for trained workers as baby boomers retire in the next 10 years.

JCTC can provide the training residents of the region need to step into these good-paying jobs.

While college projects in the past were funded solely by the state, this time around the local community is going to have to fund 25 percent of the project.

Carroll County and its neighbors stand ready to meet this requirement. This fact has already been demonstrated in relation to the new campus.

Carroll County Fiscal Court and North American Stainless put up the money to secure the site for the new campus on land across from General Butler State Resort Park on 30 acres that was at one time part of Camp Kysoc.

Earlier this year, the community joined with the Rotary Club of Carrollton to raise more than $8,600 toward the new campus at its winter ball.

The legislation also includes a plan to payoff the debt the state takes on with a bond issue for the project by assessing all community college students a fee of up to $8 per semester hour to pay it off. Once again, it can be argued that the state should provide these funds, there has been no argument that putting the fee in place must happen so students can receive the education they need.

There can be no argument that the campus is needed. The numbers demonstrate Carroll County’s need. Only 13.9 percent of the county’s residents have an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree or graduate/professional degree. This compares with a statewide average that’s at 27.9 percent.

With a poverty rate at 27.9 percent and the fact that more than 60 percent of the workers at the industries in Carroll County live in other communities, this campus is needed to train local residents and help them secure the good jobs that are already here in their community.

At Tuesday’s fiscal court meeting, Tomlinson said he expects it will only take a couple of years before the college is serving 1,500 to 2,000 students or more.

The rewards from this investment are clear.

Given the fiscal realities, this is the only way to get state approval to build the Carrollton campus. Lawmakers serving on the conference committee must fund the project based on its merit and importance and Beshear must sign the budget with this funding when it reaches his desk.