DALLAS - The San Jacinto Community College District plans to update existing libraries and add health and technical education facilities at its three campuses in southeastern Harris County, Tex., if voters approve a $295 million general obligation bond package on May 10.

The district's campuses provide the academic classes required for students interested in continuing their education at a four-year college, but focus on technical and scientific training for large industries in the area, said Amanda Booren, director of communications for the district.

"The district offers more than 140 technical programs ranging from nursing to aerospace to petrochemical," Booren said. "We are close to NASA's Johnson Space Center, the Texas Medical Center, and the petrochemical and maritime industries along the Houston Ship Channel, and provide training in those and other areas."

The San Jacinto district serves the Deer Park, Channelview, Galena Park, La Porte, Pasadena, and Shelton independent school districts. Enrollment is approximately 25,000 students.

The college district's GOs are rated Aa3 by Moody's Investors Service and AA by Standard & Poor's. Revenue debt is rated A1 by Moody's and AA-minus by Standard & Poor's.

If the bonds are approved, the district's property tax rate will increase by four cents per $100 of assessed value, or about $38 a year for a home valued at $100,000. The district's current property tax rate is 14.5365 cents per $100 valuation, of which about three cents is for debt service.

The new and upgraded facilities to be financed with bond proceeds will help meet the demand for technical training, Booren said.

"We have a growing student population and need more space," she said. "We work very closely with local industries to provide their workers with the training they need, and some of our existing facilities must be renovated and upgraded to provide that training."

"There are huge demands for more well-educated workers in health care and petrochemicals, and those demands are not going away any time soon," she said.

The projects include $231.5 million of new facility construction and renovations, and $13.6 million of infrastructure projects. The district will also spend $25.4 million on site work, including jogging trails and parking lots, and $24.4 million on engineering, design, and assessment.

The GOs will finance new and renovated classrooms and laboratories at each campus, as well as library upgrades, Booren said.

"Students don't go to libraries just to check out a book," she said. "They also need Internet connections and computer terminals. The existing facilities aren't made for that type of technology, so we're going to upgrade the libraries at the three campuses."

Voters approved a $91 million bond package for the district in 1999, which financed the construction of six buildings as well as major infrastructure projects.

Booren said the district expects widespread support for the bond package but is working hard to ensure voter approval in May.

"We have great support from the community," she said. "The public sees the value of what we're doing, and we keep close ties with local industries to make sure we're meeting their needs as well."

"If we can get the facts out, we think the voters will take a hard look at the proposals and approve the bonds," she said.

The district was established in 1961 with a single campus. Bonds were issued in 1972 to build the second campus, and again in 1976 to build the third one.

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