CAMDEN COUNTY, Mo. — Voters will weigh costs and benefits when they head to the polls on April 7, at least those in Camdenton R-III School District. The district has asked residents to approve a 20-cent property tax levy increase, specifically designated for the construction of an Ozarks Technical Community College (OTCC) campus at the Lake.

OTC has expanded in central Missouri by partnering with school districts that express an interest in seeing a local campus. Those districts then ask their voters to approve a 20-cent tax levy. Once the new campus is opened, students who live within that district receive significant tuition discounts at OTC. Higdon pointed out the cost of the 20-cent levy for the average household would be comparable to the savings a local student would receive on a single credit hour. For a $100,000 home, the levy increase would raise that home's annual property tax by approximately $40, OTC says.

The college has three campuses and two centers in Missouri: Springfield, Richwood Valley/Nixa, Hollister (Table Rock), Lebanon, and Waynesville. A sixth, in Republic, is set to open in August of this year.

Dr. Hal Higdon, Chancellor of the Ozarks Technical Community College System, told the Osage Beach Board of Aldermen in October OTC would likely end up investing $15-20 million in a Lake campus. The new campus, if approved by voters, could open as early as 2022 or 2023.

In a publication pitching the Lake campus, OTC wrote, "[A]n initial analysis of the Lake of the Ozarks area would suggest exploring programs like welding, marine repair, medical assisting, nursing and teaching." The campus could serve 800 students per year.

Higdon also said other school districts in the area would be welcome to join OTC’s local levy by a vote of their own constituents; if they did so (even after the campus were built), students who live in those districts would also be eligible to receive tuition discounts. However, the only Lake area school district to put it on the ballot for April will be Camdenton R-III. That would be sufficient to build a local campus, and Higdon said if other districts joined, that would bring in more funds to grow that local campus.

He emphasized revenues from the local levy would not go into one big OTC fund. That’s not how OTC does things, he said. “We will spend Lake money on the Lake.” He said 75 percent of the college’s revenue comes from tuition. “We’re aggressive. We run like a business,” he said.

Making the case for the Lake campus last fall at a public event, Higdon acknowledged Missouri's other community college systems. "All 12 community colleges do a great job,” he said. But, he added, "We feel like we do it better."

Read more about the potential OTC campus at the Lake, here:

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